Last week I attended the ASU: Origins Project lecture. The topic this time was deception. The panel of lecturers spoke about how your brain deceives you, the biological reasons for self-deception, and how magicians use these things to perform their tricks. All and all, it was both entertaining and educational. At the end, host Lawrence Krauss, asked the panel a few questions before opening the floor to audience questions. One questions brought up how to defend ones self from deception. The panel offered interesting answers, but one panelist in particular, Jamy Ian Swiss, had the best answer. Here’s a summary: skepticism. Swiss is a big name in the skeptic community, was the founder of the Nation Capital Area Skeptics, and has monitored several of the $1M challenges hosted by the JREF.
It was not the fact that Swiss mentioned skepticism that was eye opening. I’ve been a member of Phoenix Skeptics in the Pub for a little over a year now, and have been pursuing skepticism and science for most of my life. I’m no stranger to how skepticism can help shield us from deception and self-deception. The thing that really opened my eyes and made me think was one statement in particular that Swiss made: why aren’t we teaching the methods, fundamentals and philosophies of science in 2nd or 3rd grade instead starting these classes in college?
Holy crap! Why aren’t we teaching the methods, fundamentals and philosophies to kids?! We aren’t teaching grade school and high school kids how to think. We’re only teaching them to memorize and regurgitate facts for things like the AIMS test. Kids today are losing their critical thinking skills, and, as a high school science teacher, I have to admit that I’m as guilty of this as any other teacher. All of the focus of teaching today is on test scores and knowing facts, but not how to think problems through. Why the hell are we teaching this very fundamental skills to children?! How can I, as a teacher, design lessons, units, curriculum, and classes that promote, teach, and explore critical thinking and the philosophies of science?
So here’s my call – I need help from other teachers! So I’m calling out PASS teachers. Help me bring science fundamentals and critical thinkings skills back into the classroom. Leave a comment below if you’re interested in meeting up to plan out some lessons.
School has started back up again and kids are forced to once more put their video games down and pull out their thinking caps. By threats if necessary. I teach high school science and if there is one thing I have learned it’s that kids don’t want to think. It hurts. So you have to trick them into thinking by getting them interested in something. And blowing things up always makes kids interested.
Have you ever dropped a few mentos into a 2 liter bottle of diet coke? I mean you, personally? No. Stop reading, go out and buy a bottle of diet coke and a pack of mentos. Then drop 3-5 mentos into the open bottle at the same time (Rolling up a piece of paper and stacking the mentos in the paper using your finger as a stopper works best. Just hold the stoppered end over the neck of the soda and slide your finger back when ready. Then move out of the way…quickly!). I recommend doing this outside. Go do this now. I’ll wait…
Pretty freaking cool, right? And kids, including high school kids, love it. It looks awesome and it sprays diet coke all over the place. What’s not to love? Now here comes the tricking part:
How does it work? How come diet coke creates a geyser when you drop mentos into the bottle? Is it the sugar of the candy? The sugar substitute in the soda? The color used in the soda? The caffeine content? The level of carbonation? The surface area of the candy? A combination of several factors?
The East Valley Tribune recently reported about an awesome program that is helping Arizona students appreciate science, technology, engineering and math education despite funding problems.“All around Arizona, there’s been a push for more science, technology, engineering and math education, known as STEM. One group behind that is Arizona Promoters of Applied Science in Education (APASE), which runs Arizona’s National Underwater Robotics Challenge.
‘We want to develop an interest in STEM fields early on. With (the National Underwater Robotics Challenge) NURC, students see the applicability of what they learned in the classroom in a hands-on environment. They also develop discipline, problem-solving skills, design and engineering techniques. There is little to no design and engineering in regular curriculum and NURC provides that experience, even to the little ones,’said Carmen Cornejo, a board member of APASE.
Students at the robotics competition recognize that.
Triyiadela Rosa, 11, a student at Chandler’s Bologna Elementary School, said the competition was, ‘good exposure’ to science. Plus, ‘It’s something new and we’ve never done it before.’