Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.
Carl Sagan was an astronomer in the United States who was known for communicating science to people of in all walks of life. He may be best known today for his books and for the original Cosmos TV series. Though he published over 600 scientific papers and articles, he also wrote wrote fiction (like Contact).
Why does this matter?
It shows a person can have many sides, that they can be a grown-up teaching the next generation of physicists, but that they can still look at a blade of grass and wonder at it and it’s connection to us. What better example for our children?
Maybe the old show looks cheesy to our savvy middle schoolers, but it started a whole new group talking about science. Imagine, the whole field of science communication didn’t exist before Cosmos except in lecture halls!
Teachers can use Carl Sagan’s “stardust” to talk about the origins of much of the world’s carbon, helium, and hydrogen. Carl even remembered and made examples of the experiences that our students have for the first time: visiting museums and playing with rocks and dirt.
Today we have many inspiring science communicators. Check out YouTubers like The Brain Scoop out of the Field Museum or SciShow Kids. Read any of the amazing books about marginalized and female scientists. Spend some time observing on the playground with your students or children. What do you see? How many types? The fact that leaves on the trees and stars can number in millions, but still be unique is something I articulated only after exploring Carl Sagan’s science communication.
“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious.”
Science communication is one of my favorite topics. Don’t get me started on the need and the opportunities to expand teacher content knowledge through materials available in our libraries and online. Or we could go out into the real world and explore with our senses, a magnifying glass and some rulers! When we add in all the exploration that can happen at night, the possibilities are limitless. Get out there and wonder!
Today’s two featured books:
Star Stuff by Stephanie Roth Sisson, the biography of young Carl Sagan, who grew up to teach physics and speculate on the greater mysteries. This accessible biography to introduce the words “Star Stuff” talks about looking at the world and allowing wonder at the universe to never take over the reason it works. It has large images with little text, making it both accessible to children and worth exploring every page and finding out what our learners see when they look at the pictures.
You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsy and Soyeon Kim uses delightful paper craft to look at the contentedness of the world. Humans grow larger than they start, just as trees in the forest do. We are learning to speak as babies, and birds learn to sing. Though beautiful, this is a science-based book that explores the atoms of the universe. This is a book to slow down and absorb the paper-craft images.
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Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.