The foundation of science is the natural world. If you minimize a child's exposure to the natural world, you diminish her capacity to grasp science.
We are doing our best to do just that.
The digital world is not the natural world, not even close. An economy based on extraction and manufactured desires depends on children becoming disconnected from what we are, mammals dependent on the natural cycles of the physical world.
If you hope to teach a child anything at all about time, about months, about seasons, about years, she needs to spend her young days under the sun and the moon, not on an iPad playing with a simulator.
In 1978, Jerry Mander, an advertising executive with a background in economics, wrote Four Arguments For The Elimination of Television. While some of it is dated, Mander's extensive second argument, "the colonization of experience", extends to much of what we do with children today, both in and out of the classroom. He shows how this colonization supports our extractive economy, and the costs it entails on our sense of well-being.
"We have been removed from the environment within which we evolved and with which we are uniquely designed to interact. Now we interact and coevolve with only the grosser, more monolithic, human-made commercial forms which remain available within our new laboratory-space station. Because we live inside the new environment, we are not aware that any tradeoff has been made."
|Fisher-Price Apptivity Seat, photo via Amazon.com|
It is very difficult, maybe impossible, to love science, to be truly curious about the world, if you spend most of your awake hours in front of screens. (I am not talking about the Aspergerish behavior of some children who cling to science "facts" like security blankets, garnering adult praise for their trouble.)
It is also very difficult to teach children science if they spend their first decade of schooling in a system geared to game "standardized" tests they face every spring. Every time a district pares down recess, or fine arts, or physical education, or music, or school trips to a local natural landmark, a child's chances of grasping the natural world diminishes.
|The eye of a horseshoe crab, from inside the shell.|
I'm taking my kids to Sandy Hook in a few weeks to watch horseshoe crabs mate--one of their assignments will be to watch the tide rise. Despite living within 50 miles of the Atlantic, more than a handful of my students have never seen the ocean.
But all of them can dash off a five paragraph essay on nothing.
How can you even pretend to know the ocean if you have never stood at its edge?