TED Conversations

Yu-An Chen


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Why don't we have more "Kitchen" scientists?

When people hear the word "Science", they often think of fancy labs with high technology equipment, and this is not too far off-- In my Bioelectricity class, for example, we learned about patch clamp experiments, which use tiny electrical recorders called micropipettes to record electrical currents from single ion channels in cells, and the voltage clamp experiments performed by Hodgkin and Huxley, in which they managed to thread wires through a single axon! These experiments, and a lot of other important experiments outside this field, require a lot of expensive machinery, chemicals and facilities. But does science always have to be a luxury? For example, instead of using expensive fish-eye lens for photography experiment, we could simply buy a much cheaper door viewer to get the same barrel distortion effect. Or you can go online and buy kits to record from brains, or if you live in New York City, you can join the community laboratory called GenSpace, take workshops, trainings, or can work on our own projects!

How do you think we can help science become more accessible to everyone? The more people, both amateur and professional, who contribute to science, the more ideas will be created!


Closing Statement from Yu-An Chen

Thank you all for the comments and suggestions. I got to know a lot of new resources by going through the comments. It seems like most people will be glad to see more kitchen scientists. We can start with turning off TV and explore more about the world. Science is all around us, if one has the heart, anyone can become a kitchen scientist.

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    Feb 11 2012: I think that if schools could get some parents to commit to a monthly science workshop/hands-on lab....then maybe these same parents can go out in the community and spark other parent's interest, and so on. Most schools are not used in the evening.....why not use the school sites for these labs.....most high schools have the labs already.

    This takes planning, and it has to be organized by outgoing personality types who really enjoy science. But I think it could work.

    I think some have made a valid point in saying that technology has affected kids, and adults view of kitchen science....this is very sad.

    However, I still know dedicated science teachers who are trying their best to keep science alive and well....so let's be optimistic.

    I hope to see a GenSpace down in our neck of the woods soon!!!!
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      Feb 13 2012: Hey Mary

      There is an organization that accomplishes your hopes called Iridescent Learning. Its vision is “to use science, technology and engineering to develop persistent curiosity and to show that knowledge is empowering.” Iridescent has a Family Science Program in which children from the same school along with their parents and siblings go to Iridescent science studios for science lessons and experiments one night a week for 4 weeks. These 4 lessons are part of a cohesive unit that demonstrates the important principles of a science application like the physics behind sailing. Each lesson has demo and design portions to concretely demonstrate the principles. These lessons are taught by engineers and engineering students through an Engineers as Teachers program. I had the pleasure of participating in Iridescent’s Engineers as Teachers program affiliated with my college. Not only are the children learning and hopefully becoming more curious and interested in science, but the engineering student-teachers renew their interest in science and see how their knowledge and expertise can benefit children that could potentially follow in their footsteps.
      Iridescent has locations in California and New York. Hopefully, it will expand to many other states and other universities.

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        Feb 14 2012: Oh my goodness Joanna......what a great site!!!

        I watched the videos of interviews with the engineering students and how they are trained to go into the upper elemetary grades and middle schools to show kids complex science in simple ways.

        How much fun was being had by all....kids, parents and engineering students!!!

        It is a win win win win situation. The young students win because they are able to have positive role models teach them that science is fun......the teachers in the schools win because they can imitate the methods later on with other students.....the university students win because they learn communication and leadership skills......and the parents and society as a whole wins because we will continue to foster a love of science in our future generations.

        THANK YOU seems too simple of an expression, but really thank you for sharing Joanna.

        It would be great if the University of Miami did something like this here in South Florida. Maybe I will email somebody over there and send them this link. HMM

        Thank you. Mary
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      Feb 14 2012: Mary,

      I had a lot of experience in labs from a young age until I graduated from High School. However, I don't believe that lab experience alone is what can help young students more interested, even if parents were to get involved. Many of the experiments for young children involves following a specific procedure. There was no thought involved, and that wasn't enjoyable for me.

      I currently am in college, and have lab experience that has finally made me interested. In my Organic Chemistry lab course, we are required to find unknown compounds using any methods we have learned. This lets us have fun trying different things on our own, without following an exact procedure made by someone else. We have the freedom to choose how we want to approach the problem, rather than having the answer handed to us.

      This idea can be used for young children with moderation, making sure safe procedures are used with a high level of supervision. Children would be able to think more, and be extremely satisfied if they were to complete a challenge in the lab using their own methods. They can do their own research to see how to approach the lab, as long as they receive approval from the teacher.

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        Feb 14 2012: This is a good way for college students. It would require excellent training in science for the elementary teacher.

        I have used the "do your own method"...for example, with the post I wrote about the making of boats.....and it is nice to see the different approaches students take.

        Control is a big issue in elementary, as kids are very immature and some activities can get out of hand, plus, there is hardly any background knowledge on subjects so it is a bit of a challenge.

        It would be interesting to use your university's approach every once in a while.

        Thank you for sharing your experience.

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      Feb 15 2012: Hello Mary i received a notification about you last comment, but i can not see it. So is there any way you could re-post it?
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        Feb 15 2012: Yes, thank you Mr. Unuoha.

        Thank you for your reply.

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