Once again, I am jealous that I don’t live in NY anymore. Call me a total nerd, but I am excited that this kind of festival is taking place. It’s the World Science Festival to be held in NYC in June.
So what’s it about? Here’s their mission statement from their own website.
The festival has been going on since 2008, and if you take a look at their events schedule from last year you can see a wide range of talks, demonstrations, shows, and exhibits, spread across the city in a variety of venues, from the MoMA to CUNY to the Abyssinian Baptist Church. The schedule for the 2011 festival is not up yet (check back here soon – I’ll post a link as soon as it’s up) but if previous years are any indication, the topics will be very interesting. There were shows by a “mathemagician” at NYU, talks on the science of sports and Disney Imagineering, again both at NYU. There were talks on the neuroscience of the Bourne trilogy at MoMa, the science of morality at the 92nd street YMCA, and a Q&A with scientists and engineers in cool jobs (Disney, NASA, CSI) at the Kimmel Center.
In a previous post, I mentioned that one of the reasons that we decry the drop in American science and math education is that we don’t really do anything to make them fun. We have a zillion festivals that celebrate music, art, sports, film, culture – but not very many that celebrate science and make it accessible to the masses. This is one of the few. Too many people think that science and scientific thinking are for academics, or for socially unpopular nerds. Or that it’s too difficult, too esoteric, or too “out there”. In reality, we live in a world that was created by science and technology and we’re inundated with it. We use it, we live in it and it lives in us, but we have a hard time communicating the joy and excitement of science.
I think the problem starts at childhood. The way we teach science and math is too dry, too divorced from everyday life – as something that exist only in books. We don’t get the kids interested in it to a sufficient degree that they would want to explore it on their own, when the adults aren’t looking. And I think that’s the key. Again, I’m probably repeating myself across posts, but it’s my firm belief that in order that get kids to do well in something, we have to get them to like it, we have to get them to enjoy it, and we have to get them to do it on their own when we’re not looking. I can speak for myself and say that I learned more things in the “off hours” between school and classes, when I was reading, talking, listening, exploring on my own, than in just the classroom or lecture settings. The classrooms and lectures should reinforce and guide the lessons, but in order to get the kids to want to explore on their own, we have to get them to have fun doing it. And hence my support for events like this.
OK, I’m getting off my soapbox now. Back to my plug for this event. As my closing statement, I want to plug the blog of the World Science Festival. It’s actually an interesting collection of science facts and news, and it doesn’t just have things related to the festival. All in all, this is great event, and I hope it gets popular and spreads to other cities around the country.