Sunday, January 12, 2003

For some reason, I took Katie and Joseph to our local kids' science museum today. We'd been there before, but Katie was bored and Joseph had never experienced it since he was in the catatonic-stroller-stage, so why not.

Same old same old, of course. No matter what the size or sophistication, these joints are all the same, and I hate every last one of them from their whispering dishes to their tornados in a tube and back again.

Here's the other way they're all the same: they're all filled with kids racing madly from one "interactive" station to the next, punching buttons and heaving levers just long enough to see the lights flash or the rocket go up or the tornado start, and not, as far as I can see, learning a single thing. I've been to science museums all over, from here to Nashville to Tampa and in between in the last fifteen years, and the scene has never changed. I have never believed for a minute that these places are educational. The interactivity is supposed to engage the child's intellect, concretize the learning, and so on, but I have hardly seen a kid stop long enough to do anything but punch the buttons, much less pause to figure out what the lesson of it all is supposed to be. There's just too much information and the environment is just too stimulating. Sure, you can learn from a science demonstration - one. Per lesson. Per day. But faced with fifty booths, looking like nothing but fifty video games, what's a kid to do but go from one to the other as fast as he can, making as many lights flash and as much noise as possible? With some guidance and some interpretation, some fruit could possibly be borne, but mostly, it's just chaos.

There have been studies. Of course. I found a site that seems to be a clearinghouse for such research. Maybe it will prove me wrong, but I didn't really check out the whole site in depth yet. I was too busy clicking on the icons.

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