The great Carl Sagan said, “Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact.”
It is always inspiring to see kids inspired by science. That’s why when I got a call from MC Knoll School that the Grade 5 students were having a science fair, I was all over it as if it was a breaking news story.
There was, of course, nothing truly ground-breaking in the presentations, but that is not what a Grade 5 science fair is about. It’s about the scientific process.
In a nutshell, it’s really very simple. Define a problem, develop a hypothesis, design an experiment, conduct the experiment, draw your conclusion.
As adults, all too often we skip directly from hypothesis to conclusion, which causes all kinds of problems because the middle part, the evidence, is the important part.
The beauty of the scientific process is the skills, particularly critical thinking, are applicable to every aspect of our lives.
It is also teaches integrity. As some of the students learned, it is okay to be wrong. We follow the data. If the hypothesis is not supported by the evidence, we say so and go back to step one.
Talking process, critical thinking and integrity, however, is enough to make a child’s little eyes glaze over. The great thing about a science fair is that it is fun. And fun is what makes enthusiasm sustainable.
There was plenty of fun in the MC Knoll gymnasium that day last week as the lower grades toured the presentations.
Ben Lortie, for example, captivated his young audiences with the principle of surface effect using a hovercraft constructed from an ordinary CD, a bottle cap and a balloon.
Josh Haczkewich appeared to be more magician than scientist with his demonstration of how polymers work by poking pencils through plastic bags filled with water without spilling a drop.
Density and buoyancy were popular principles on display at Brad Heskins “sink or swim” booth where pop cans either sank of floated depending on sugar content of the drink.
Kids lined up to try out Jackson Berezowski coordination tester, which challenged participants to guide a copper wire attached to a battery around another wire attached to a light.
As I said, lots of fun, but nothing really earth-shattering.
I did learn one really useful trick, though. We’ve all done it. You arrive home and grab the last cold beer out of the fridge and drop it. Now you have to wait for a while to open it.
Or do you?
By tapping the side of the can a few times, did you know you can reverse the effect of shaking that makes your drink explode on you.
I didn’t, but I do now thanks to Grade 5 science.
I feel I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to one of the great heroes of Canadian rights and freedoms.
Doctor Henry Morgentaler died last week at the age of 90.
When Morgentaler started his first therapeutic abortion clinic in Montreal in 1969, therapeutic abortions had just become legal, but they were only available in hospitals and only with the approval of therapeutic abortion panels. Most hospitals didn’t even bother to set up the panels so while the law had changed, the plight of women seeking abortions in back alleys with clothes hangers had not.
Despite the fact, Morgentaler had survived the Nazi concentration camps during World War II, he endured death threats and firebombing of his clinics to ensure his patients had access to safe procedures.
He was eventually arrested and put in jail, but was acquitted by a Montreal jury. A Quebec superior court merely threw out the verdict and replaced it with a conviction.
In 1975, the federal government changed the Criminal Code so a higher court cannot reverse a jury acquittal. We should all be thankful for that.
Eventually, the good doctor would be vindicated. In 1988, the Supreme Court struck down the abortion law agreeing with Morgentaler it was unconstitutional.
Unfortunately, anti-abortionists are using his passing to try to reopen the abortion debate. Shame on them.