Toward Creative Science
Plant biotechnologist Sarrah Ben M’Barek writes of the need for a more creative approach in teaching science to young children, especially little girls, in order to close the gender gap that arises in adolescence.
Scientists are often depicted as cold, unemotional and rational. However, I do believe that the best scientists are poets, the real engineer is an artist and that poetry and arts are part of science itself. The term Big Bang, for instance, was not coined by humorless intellectuals but by fully evolved people possessing the entire range of human emotions, including presumably, the kind of creativity usually associated with artists.
But what is creativity? Creativity is a modern concept that first appeared in 1875, and the term was used to refer to the poetic imagination. Its narrowest sense now refers to the abilities of people perform activities such as inventing, designing, composing and planning. People who exhibit these types of behaviors to a marked degree are recognized as being creative. Others have defined creativity by its results, saying that a person is creative if his or her work or performance is both original (different or unusual) and significant.
However, I do believe that creativity must be sparked, developed and encouraged, especially during the first years of a child’s life, and the family plays an important role in developing this creativity.
Indeed, children are creative thinkers and have amazing capabilities. Young children want and need to express ideas; they form mental images and communicate with the world through many different expressive ways. They need increasing competence and integrations across formats including words, gestures, drawing, paintings, sculpture, construction, music, dramatic play, movement and dance. We know however, that children usually need adult support, usually from parents and teachers, to find the means and the confidence to bring forth their ideas. This following paragraphs consider both teacher-initiated and child-initiated strategies for enhancing young children’s self-expression and creativity. In this way, teachers guide, rather than impel, the child through his own processes of discovery and experimentation. They take their cues from children through careful listening and observation and know when to encourage risk-taking ad when to refrain from interfering.
Helping children develop their creativity through science and technology involves giving them opportunities to express their own ideas and make choices, investigate how materials behave and make associations and connections. Skillful questioning helps of children helps determine the right starting points for experimentation and investigation, starting points that relate directly to children’s interests and first-hand experience. Taking time to have in-depth conversations with children about their ideas and what they believe to be true is of major importance.
Therefore, the child’s environment (family, school, friends, communications media such as Internet and TV) plays a major role in determining his or future choices. If we want to initiate a “scientific awakening” does that mean we should increase the number of school hours devoted to science? Establish special programs, such as those that are still in the experimental stage in countries like the UK? During courses in these programs, for example, the child is asked to look into the microscope and draw a picture of what he or she sees, such as the structure of a leaf or a neuron, for example. They are then asked to comment on their drawings by writing a poem about them. An activity like this enhances the child capabilities, promotes his creativity and helps to create a link between art and science. Another idea is to take the children to research centers and organizations involved in science as well as arrange meetings between researchers and students. Given the natural interest girls have for these types activities, such initiatives would surely help attract more girls to a subject once geared mostly to boys.