“Schmience” was born as I sailed back from a mind blowing experience at the first 5D conference on immersive design. It was put together by one of my heroes, a colleague and the production designer I most respect, Alex McDowell. During one session a physicist presented a charming flash animation of a lab-coated Einsteinian figure and a cute young woman pushing a Sisyphusian boulder up a hill in a call for artists to take up the mantle to help educate the general public about the nature of science.
As someone whose business card reads “Artist & Scientist” his plea nagged at me, and as I processed the experience while returning home, under the moonlight with a brisk evening breeze, I spent the bulk of my 3 hour sail from the southern most to the northern most end of massive LA harbor, designing a science program for elementary aged kids: Science? Schmience!
I enrolled in this EMDT program with the express goal of using the coursework to detail out this plan, and eagerly began to do research on how to best structure it and what tools would be best used to facilitate it. I know I am beating a dead horse here, but it has been an interesting education for me in how educators can go so wrong with the best intentions. I see how my pushing back against the rigid structures created in this program challenged the egos of those running it and caused them to dig in their heels. I came to understand how such rigidity could be the result of the need to be able to do efficient assessment, and most of all I learned why it is so hard to overcome the massive inertia of our educational system.
The take away for me has been that I need to work outside of that system, and try to get most of the support and allies I will need to make my Schmience dream a reality from the world of art and not of science or education. Mythbusters is successful not because it is such a good science education program (and it is) but because it is entertaining and well done. Thankfully, my greatest expertise is in that world of entertainment. So, my program has gotten something really valuable from this program, and that is the understanding that educators are likely the last people able to grok what I want to do, something I would never have thought before I began this EMDT program.
The challenge I accepted is still alive, but the one I will address here is an action research project about using real world questions to structure classroom science instruction. I met with a target audience and found a question they wanted to answer: what brand of cookies should they make to have as refreshments at the annual Holly Days party they hosted in their classroom. Together we developed a taste test protocol to test a variety of Christmas sugar cookies. The results were confounded by variables we had not controlled, and the best part of the process educationally was turning that disappointment with the first round, into a refining of the methodology for the second round.
In that second round we tested chocolate chip cookies, and made a number of changes so that more of the variables were controlled and especially so that they did not have to wear blindfolds as they had in the first round. The second round did generate significant and even surprising results and left at least some of the students with a much better grasp of the nature and process of scientific inquiry.
I would like to present at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) area conference in Portland in 2013. I suppose though if I get further along with the development of my actual program in the next few months that i might also think about presenting at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting next February in Boston.