Updated: Apr 19, 2019
Scientific literacy is vital nowadays. In our age of "fake news" and "alternative facts", the ability to discern between credible scientific evidence and sensationalist news stories with little foundation, is more important now than ever before.
"Learning, which is relevant to children's lives, authentic and observable in real-world settings has the potential to be truly transformative."
Scientific Literacy is Vital to Solving 21st Century Challenges
We need children who are capable of understanding climate science, ecology and human psychology and the links between a diverse range of interrelated scientific fields. We need young people who are problem solvers, and who are able to think critically and objectively, basing their decisions on reliable data and robust evidence, to solve the 21st Century environmental challenges we face.
These attributes are best developed by building scientific literacy and challenging students to find out how things work in the real-world. To do this, an experiential, discovery-based approach to learning is necessary, which extends far beyond the four walls of the classroom. Learning, which is relevant to children's lives, authentic and observable in real-world settings has the potential to be truly transformative.
The Importance of Critical Thinking
If we don't teach the next generation how to think critically and objectively when processing information from key news outlets and sources, including global media organizations, politicians and industry, the consequences for society and the environment are likely to be very grave indeed. We must teach how to expose non-credible and unsubstantiated information at its source, by objectively fact checking the evidence and engaging our critical thinking skills.
"Let's move away from 'reductionism' - the approach of breaking down complex systems into tiny constituent parts. Instead let's embrace a systems approach to learning that puts the lens firmly on the bigger picture."
Essentially, as educators we need to empower the next generation with the skills to evaluate news headlines, critically assess the evidence presented and avoid jumping to conclusions without objective fact checking. And most importantly of all, we must encourage children to approach fresh information with an open-mind and avoid dismissing credible scientific evidence that contradicts their existing world view.
How Can We Engage Children in Science?
But how? Well, one of the best ways is by engaging children through experiential education outside the classroom. By not being afraid to ask big questions, by encouraging open discussion, by putting theories to the test and by enabling students to draw their own conclusions, using first-hand observation and data-based evidence to synthesize their findings, children are able to develop the tools, knowledge and rational approach to decision-making that we desperately need in the 21st Century.
Some say that science is best explored and understood in the laboratory under controlled conditions. However, the world is a chaotic place, which can rarely be studied under a microscope and it's an place that's also full of wonder, intrigue and surprise!
"...we must encourage children to approach fresh information with an open-mind and avoid dismissing scientific evidence that contradicts their existing world view."
Time for Some Field Science!
So let's get kids outside doing field science and inspire a love of learning that transcends the constraints of the laboratory, and fully embraces our universe's inherent complexity. Let's move away from 'reductionism' - the approach of breaking down complex systems into tiny constituent parts. Instead let's embrace a systems approach to learning that puts the lens firmly on the bigger picture.
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