What do these three things: malls, guns, and conservation have in common?
Teaching science is a wonderfully fulfilling endeavor. Making it memorable by tying it to student-relevant and “non-science” experiences is what I love to do.
In creating a “virtual field trip” set of activities set in an easily accessible online world; keeping science relevant has been a guiding principle in the work Ener Hax and I have been doing in Enclave Harbour, a Reaction Grid hosted OpenSim estate.
Teaching science through rote methods suck.
Who wants to memorize the first 50 elements of the periodic chart of elements? Does it mean anything at all to know that a mole of any gas is 22.4 litres at standard temperature and pressure? We know where we stand in terms of STEM careers in the US and we could do better. Middle school and high school is not the place to weed out kids from science, it’s the time to fire them up about the wonders of viewing the world with greater science literacy.
Despite making science a generally miserable experience for the majority of students, we still are known for incredible achievements in science and having the best science education available.
But what if we had science be what it really is? An integrated part of our everyday lives. That doesn’t mean that those students that love and thrive on learning Avogadro’s number and Pi to 200 places would not be allowed to.
Harnessing electricity is a result of applied science but no one denies the benefits or claims it to be against religious teachings (I imagine there are some that do, but you get my drift). Science is simply a framework to view our world in richer detail.
My classic example is teaching that sunsets are red because only the longer wavelengths of light are able to penetrate the thicker slice of atmosphere at sunset. That’s an easier way to relate to wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum than memorizing actual wavelengths. Coupled with that I mention that microwaves are slightly larger than the holes in the door of a microwave.
So what do malls and guns have to do with conservation?
In Enclave Harbour, we are creating a mall for people to get virtual goods for their own use. And like in the real world, malls are opportunities to see how science is a part of our lives. You could discuss the process of having a mall built which typically includes an Environmental Assessment and possibly Environmental Impact Statement. In the case of the mall in Enclave Harbour, you could also speak about the reclamation of a rock quarry (similar to a real world example of a hotel in China to be built-in a reclaimed quarry – thank you Nickola for showing that to us).
Here is an example, within the mall, of an activity to help connect real world and relatable topics to environmental conservation:
The Enclave Harbour Marine Patrol has a boat on display at the mall entrance. In reading the display sign, it mentions that the boat's guns can be used to fire paint balls. How are paint balls used as part of forestry conservation? Hint: use the internet to look up the "Nelson Paint Company".