Making science simple!

I often wonder why so many people dislike, or are even scared, by science. After becoming a college student in the hard sciences I realized why. Most science textbooks suck. Or at least the ones I’ve read. They are full with technical language, lack any analogies, and are drenched in seriousness.

When I came to college and had professors who couldn’t care less about making these subjects interesting and understandable I had to figure out how to do it myself. I soon thought of myself as a translator of some sort of code when I was studying for an exam, reading the material in the textbook, and then googling words I didn’t understand, drawing pictures of processes that weren’t clear, and personifying molecular machinery to better understand these topics. When I shared my adaptations to my peers I discovered they become infinitely more interested and the topics became clearer.

When I became a TA I was dedicated to making my students care about the material, laugh (and thus remember) at my analogies, and awe at the beauty of science the way I learned to do. I often get comments from students like: “That makes so much more sense! Why do they try to make everything so complicated for us?” I honestly couldn’t answer that question until I stumbled on to a TED talk by Tyler DeWitt (https://www.ted.com/talks/tyler_dewitt_hey_science_teachers_make_it_fun/transcript?language=en). As a student, teacher, and science enthusiast I couldn’t help immediately agreeing with his points.

Many science teachers attempt to teach students science with specific scientific slang and with excruciating detail instead of providing students with the reason why this subject is interesting and important through stories and demonstrations. I think this might stem from fear of not being taken seriously by peers or by students. For example, I think a lot of textbook writers feel they need to write like they would in a peer reviewed journal in order to insure they look professional, credible, and intelligent to those that will read the textbook. However, I feel like this approach belongs in journals, conferences, and books where communities of professionals who work in the same fields and have the same levels of education meet to discuss scientific ideas. However, in a classroom full of undergraduates, or in a textbook which students rely on for clarification, these subjects should be treated very differently.

So, my goal is to present scientific topics that I am currently learning, teaching, or are requested by my audience in this blog through writing, drawings, videos, and podcasts. I will show what my resources say about the subject (lecture slides, textbooks, etc.) and I will analyze how I approach the subject and break it down into simpler, and more fun, information.

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