tt_icon_250.jpgMy podcast Science Teaching Tips won an award a week or so ago, for Best Professional Development podcast, through the Podcast for Teachers. They just posted a very nice interview with me, which I included in a new post on Science Teaching Tips. I talk about why I started the podcast, and why I think it can be a great venue for professional development for teachers. Listen to the interview here.

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Sand Drawing - Liminality Exhibition

One of the senior artists at the Exploratorium recently asked all the science types at the museum, “Could you tell me why you value art and the artists here?” Here’s what I told her:

The artists at the Exploratorium tickle my brain. The art exhibits at the Exploratorium, as well as the conversations with artists, have had a tangible effect upon my creativity. My mind was humming in my first months here as I was exposed to new representations of things that I had a tendency to think of in an abstract way (equations and theory, for example, or bland “textbook” examples.) I can’t say that being around artists has taught me to *create* things with an aesthetic appeal, but it certainly has opened my vision to seeing things in a new way and to consider aesthetics as an aim in itself. The art at the Exploratorium also opens me up to wonder. It is easy to get lost in the seriousness of science, reading the latest science news or considering detailed questions of why something works. When I walked in and saw the new installation — the one with the lightbulbs whose illumination chases each other around — my mind went a little fizzy and I just stood there and appreciated it. It also reminded me of many things that I know about — neuronal networks, electronic circuitry, persistence of vision. I appreciated it on an aesthetic ground, and it also represented many things in science for me.

Photo was taken by Sebastian Martin at the Liminality exhibition.

istock_000002184553xsmall.jpgSomeone said to me recently that their interest in the science of everyday life stems from their natural curiosity, their desire to “poke the world.” I liked that.

My interest in science is totally hedonistic. I like to learn stuff. There are lots of people like me. I think we find it sometimes hard to relate to people who aren’t driven by that curiosity. How do we reach them?

Of course, keeping science concrete and related to life is important. Science is something we do, after all, it’s an action. It’s not a set of static facts, but a method of gathering knowledge about the world.

Bringing science to people where they are — to the public square, to popular magazines, is also important. For example, why can’t I shower after getting a perm? There’s a good chemistry lesson lurking in there!

Other good examples of bringing science to the public square are the work of Jennifer Ouellette, who wrote the popular Physics of the Buffyverse (using Buffy the Vampire Slayer to teach about science). Also, Tim Gay, who taught 1 minute physics lessons during the game breaks at Nebraska football games. What a challenge.