Good science communication undoubtedly played a part in inspiring me to take up science. I grew up with Carl Sagan’s award-winning documentary series Cosmos, Arthur C Clarke’s TV series Mysterious World, and Patrick Moore’s ever-present The Sky at Night.
The achievement of these people was in how they sold science to their audience. They didn’t put it across as a worthy edifice that we should all queue up to worship. Instead, they managed to enthral their viewers with some of the great mysteries of the universe. Whether it was how the Big Bang took place, or whether there could be intelligent life elsewhere across space, I grew up on a diet of great unknowns. And I slowly became aware of this thing called science, that was just about the only thing with the power to solve these mysteries. I was hooked.
Maybe educators today could take a leaf or two out of the book of Sagan and co. Science, after all, has to compete with many other things all vying for children’s attention. Whatever method we choose to cultivate children’s interest in science, it needs to offer a payoff that competes with watching movies or playing on an Xbox.
This is especially important now, at a time when – more than ever – we should be encouraging children to think for themselves and question everything, instead of simply doing things because we tell them to.
Paul Parsons is author of The Science of Doctor Who (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)).