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Are you swimming in information?      

Swallowtail ButterflyKids are such great teachers.  What parent hasn’t had their child twist and turn their perspectives on things?  What child hasn’t pushed boundaries and buttons here and there?  Children have shown me how much they appreciate choices.  However, sometimes I think we are faced with over choice.  From advertising and brand names to internet access nearly everywhere- people today are swimming in information

Sammie, Caity, and Jasmine are three Girl Scouts that tackled their Silver Award this summer.  During their combined 150 required project hours, they worked to add plants, outdoor toys, and wood chips to the natural play area at the church preschool.  The products and improvements they contributed were great, however, the process of ambling through the unknown world of garden centers, lumber yards, and tool boxes was extremely powerful.  The three young women contacted experts from the county, University of Minnesota Extension Service, greenhouses, retail stores, preschool staff, city, church community and more.  They asked questions and when they didn’t get it they asked for help and asked more questions.

When they asked me a few science questions I realized they had also done the work of redefining science literacy for me.  When I first started teaching, I used to think that science literacy was about the ability to read and understand a logical mathematical text like an article about the space shuttle in the newspaper or finding the facts about the eruption of Mount St. Helens in an encyclopedia.  As internet usage exploded, science literacy seemed to define itself as the ability to seek reliable sources then correctly interpret that information.  A “science lens” if you will.  For example, learning about climate change from the most recent UN’s Arctic Climate Impact Assessment with contributions from multiple countries and hundreds of scientists is a better choice than a textbook that’s a decade old.

Jasmine, Sammie, and Caity understood exactly what they did not know.  They used their combined scientific knowledge and street smarts as a lens in seeking out experts that helped them find answers which led to more questions.  They didn’t stop (maybe because they had 150 hours to fill)… or maybe because in a time when you get to swim in information some young people are learning to use multiple lenses to sift out reliable information from multiple sources over a longer stretch of time.  Maybe being an “Expert in Not Knowing” is really a life skill we could all use to learn and grow?  Keep asking questions!


September 2012