It’s still only November but this tutor heard his first Christmas song a few days ago and Victoria has snow flurries in its 24-hour weather forecast so I suppose the time has come to say something seasonal.
As a kid I always wanted science gifts for Christmas but such items were rare way back back then when STEM (the acronym educators now use for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) referred to a part of a plant. Today, however, “edutainment” is big business and items that can reasonably be called “science gifts” are easy to find, some of which actually offer very good value for money.
One item that caught my attention recently was not a telescope, microscope, or even a potato-powered clock. Rather, it was this board game designed to teach its players about 17th century European scientific discoveries.
To quote its manufacturer, “In The New Science, you play the role of one of the great scientists from the scientific revolution in 17th century Europe. You are attempting to publish your remarkable scientific discoveries in order to gain prestige, be seen as the finest mind of your era, and consequently be appointed the first President of the Royal Society.”
This looks like a lot of fun and I can think of many students who would learn things from this that they would not learn in school but which would help them to understand science as human endeavour rather than just a collection of facts, laws of nature, and equations. If students understood what science really is, an exploration of the natural world, they would be much more likely to approach it with enthusiasm and to see it as a plausible route for finding their their places in the world.
Did I mention that I have been a very good boy this year? Hint! Hint!