Once again over the weekend she told me that she was going to conduct more experiments. These experiments involved carefully measuring, pouring, and re-pouring milk and water along with some additional flavours (cherry tomatoes!) thrown in for good measure. The final concoction was something I absolutely was required to drink as my daughter informed me it was a) ‘very tasty’ and b) ’going to help me get strong bones and grow taller’.
As a parent with a young daughter I’ve always hoped that Carl Sagan’s quote doesn’t hold true: “Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist , and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact.”
My hope was recently rekindled by #bugsR4Girls, and a co-hosted Reddit AMA featuring Morgan Jackson (PhD student) and eight year old Sophia. Sophia’s mum reached out for some help after Sophia was bullied for liking insects. Morgan created the handle and reached out to the online entomological community and now the whole thing has gone viral. Even better, Morgan and Sophia have co-authored a paper in a prestigious academic journal Annals of the Entomological Society of America.Engaging for a Good Cause: Sophia’s Story and Why #BugsR4Girls.
There are some very important lessons here for early childhood educators, schools and organisations that actively share knowledge. I’ve recently presented and written about why engagement is king for education, and no longer just the domain of marketing. Creating engaging content and experiences are critical to successful learning instances. The success and scope of the virality of this whole experience relied enormously on crafting an engagement. This engagement allowed people to come together and share. It was a story that resonated on a very personal level, and the content that the online community shared actually attracted people from outside that community to participate. This collaborative and participative approach was a heartwarming example of how technology and social platforms can be used as social learning experiences.
More broadly for early childhood educators and parents, it’s an important reminder that science really can be cool. Sophia’s support from hundreds of knowledge matter experts is the kind of defining moment that helps shape young learners for the rest of their lives. We often focus on teaching children the areas in which we feel more capable. However, a lack of confidence should be the very last reason an educator avoids teaching a subject or topic.
There is a desperate need for early childhood educators to become more confident, proficient and enjoy teaching maths and science. A recent study conducted by Hope Gerde and Andy Henion from Michigan State University found that only 42% of preschool teachers engaged in science lessons three to four times a week. This figure rose to 99% for literacy.
From my personal experience trying to encourage and teach my own daughter, I’m starting to get more comfortable saying “Well I don’t know the answer to that, but how about we both go and learn about it together.” The answer is never far away when we can search Youtube. We’re learning about dinosaurs at the moment and it’s pretty cool. And tonight I’m going to show my daughter that #BugsR4Girls.
James Bell, CEO