The importance of science to kids

I noticed that there are many Bahamians who tend to shy away from scientific subjects such as biology, chemistry, and physics in high school, and then struggle severely with them in college (when they choose to do science-based majors).

But the question is, why?

Is it because of religious reasoning? Is it because the older generation tend to make science seem hard and that only the intelligent can manage with it? is it just too elusive when taught in schools?

Well, I have my own ideas on how this could be the case:

1. Science and religion don’t really get along too well– Science is based on pure facts that can be measured, justified and experimented on to get the same results while religion is based on faith (believing in things that you cannot perceive nor quantify in the natural realm). As you can see, the two are seemingly contradictory, which makes it difficult for the average Bahamian to accept one or the other, especially since The Bahamas considers itself a ‘Christian nation.’ Many Bahamians feel that exploring a science can ‘test their faith.’

2. Asking questions is taboo– Many black Bahamians (well I find that this occurs throughout the African diaspora) tend to teach their children that questioning authority is wrong, including God. Science, on the other hand, questions everything, even the very existence of God. Again, both are seemingly contradictory.

3. Lack of role models– We are having a serious brain drain problem in which educated Bahamians (especially those that are great in research) are forced to find jobs to support their career goals elsewhere in the world simply because the older Bahamians don’t accept/understand concepts that they were never introduced to. In other words, the older generation is vastly afraid of change and are too complacent to accept any new ideas that might rock their boats for the first few years of its implementation. Thus, many young Bahamians don’t see that strong research component represented. The only scientific fields that are represented are medical (physicians or nurses) and maybe pharmaceuticals

4. The information presented seems hard to understand– science can become very complex the deeper you get into it. If you don’t understand the basics very well, it will be extremely hard to understand more complex topics such as organic chemistry and biochemistry.

There may be a few other reasons that are not listed here (if you have some ideas, please place them in the comment section below). However, the average Bahamian need not be afraid or trepidatious when it comes to science and research because each country needs its own groups of researchers that will help it to succeed. It’s how most first world countries become first world countries. Also, not everything that works for other countries will work for our own, thus we need unorthodox forward-thinking individuals and this is something that must be instilled within our kids from a young age.

Here’s why.

Learning science encourages interest in research

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

One of the things that we have to stop doing to our kids, especially in the black community, is forbidding them from asking questions. We should allow their curiosity to be peaked and try to answer as best as we can. And for those answers that we don’t know, encourage them to do their own research.

This is what science is. Asking questions and conducting research to try to find an answer to those questions. By asking questions, we are allowing our minds to venture off outside of the box. We need this in Bahamian society.

There is also this fallacy that many Christians love to purport which is, “God doesn’t want us to ask Him questions.” This could not be further from the truth. There were so many prophets, Kings and others who asked questions that God actually provides the answer for. In fact, many of them challenged God to prove his power, authority and even His promises of which He obliged (see Gideon, Abraham, Jonah, Moses, Jeremiah, Simon Peter, even Jesus to an extent, just to name a few). There is no excuse for us as human beings to not ask questions.

Learning science encourages critical thinking

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

When you are allowed to ask questions and you then research the answers, you start to relate commonalities between uncommon things and are able to decipher between what is useful and what is pure garbage.

Our Bahamian populace lacks this quality immensely and it is crippling us as a country, on the whole, affecting all areas from politics to education.

I am also quite aware that there are millions of people in first world countries that lack this quality as well. However, the reason why they thrive so well and for so long is because science is encouraged through STEM programs and science fairs/competitions in schools. This encouragement stems from the need to survive centuries of existential crises such as wars, viral/bacterial epidemics, famine, and drought.

The Bahamas, in its entirety, hasn’t had a need to fight in a war since the American War of Independence of 1776 which means that we never really had to fight for survival in that sense. We just depended upon our first world counterparts for answers, protection, and money. We are also at a disadvantage because these countries have millions of people whereas we only have around 400,000 citizens. But this is exactly where we can shine.

Learning science should not disrupt religious beliefs

Photo by Chris Dixon on Unsplash

In fact, it should magnify it. I do identify myself as a Christ lover (as you can tell by the slightly biased imagery and tone of this article haha) and through science, I’ve come to understand the beauty and complexity of the world that He created. Do you know that with all the knowledge that we have today, it only just scratches the surface?

There is just wayyyyy too many things that science can’t answer yet and it will take some thousands of years before it is able to access the meat of how our world/universe works. Thousands. That in and of itself is amazing.

Now, there are a lot of scientists who lose their faith in religion because they become too logical; they are constantly looking for answers and proof of their answers. And truth be told, a lot of these answers cannot be easily found in religion as it is a personal and spiritual relationship with an unseen being (in most cases). But if you really believe that there is a divine being then you should not feel threatened in any way as you start to learn and explore more about the world.

I can’t speak for any other religion, but in Christianity, the Bible teaches us to seek knowledge first from our heavenly creator by reading the bible. He also wants us to understand the world around us because we are living in it for a short time. God also wants us to ask for wisdom and He will freely give it to us. Contrary to popular belief, God doesn’t withhold anything from us. He just waits for the best time to reveal it.

Science is a necessity. Not an option.

It’s how surgeons learn how to operate on you precisely. Its how pharmaceutical companies create medication to heal (or at least ease) some of the most terrible illnesses. It’s how we can use the very device that you are using to read this article right now. Its how we are able to consume the foods we like year-round. Its how we are able to drink the drinks we like and also have the ability to taste other types of distilled water. It’s how we are able to travel via car, boats, planes, and trains on a day to day basis. Its how we build our homes, offices and other structures. It’s how we understand music.

Science is all around us. It’s time for us Bahamians to take it seriously.

Chemistry Study Tips

Chemistry is one of those subjects that you simply cannot absorb by reading.

You must apply the principles by practicing equations and relating everything you’ve learned to something you encounter every day.

I think a lot of us have issues understanding science topics, especially chemistry because we can’t see it in our every day lives. So to help you out, I’ve devised several ways in which you can start to prepare for chemistry

1. Understand that chemistry happens all around us

The hardest thing to do when you begin studying chemistry is to apply theory to practice. If you can just begin to understand that everything that happens around you is some kind of chemical reaction, then you are able to proceed.

For example, I want you to imagine that you are sitting in your favorite restaurant waiting for your food to arrive. You see and smell so many different aromas within the restaurant that your body produces chemicals to

  1. identify the different smells (every fragrance is a chemical that your body perceives)
  2. identify the different foods by sight
  3. fill the brain so that it can prepare the body for the meal

Now, I want you to imagine that the waiter finally brings your food and note how you feel when you see the waiter arrive and when you take the first bite. You now have chemicals that

  1. fills your brain and causes you to feel happy
  2. fills your mouth with saliva, which also have chemicals to break down the food
  3. fills your taste buds and then send those same chemical messages to the brain so that you are able to taste the food
  4. breaks down food while it is in the stomach

So on, and so forth.

and this is just a small tidbit. Try to think of other scenarios which require chemical reactions (leave them in the comments below).

2. Understand that theories in chemistry are applicable and not invisible

After you understand that chemical reactions happen all around us every day, always remember that scientific theories are not always abstract, invisible, nor hypothetical.

For example, the atomic theory states that matter is comprised of tiny units called atoms. In the earlier years, the atom was just a philosophical concept because it was invisible to the naked eye. However, in the 20th century, the atom’s existence was proven and even smaller units of the atom could have actually been seen because of electromagnetism and radioactivity.

These smaller units were called protons, neutrons and electrons and the interaction of these smaller units is the basis of what helps us to understand different chemical reactions.

This means that scientific theories are not guesses: they are based upon factual evidence. They are only called theories because there are still some missing pieces of the puzzle that scientists have yet to uncover (God made this world quite complex).

3. Understand that chemistry has patterns

Let’s say you are studying the periodic table of elements and its trends across and down the table.

Assuming that you already understand the basics of the periodic table (if not, please leave me a comment below and I will explain), I will show you how it has a pattern.

For example, the atomic radius (which is the total distance from one end of the atom’s electron shell to another) increases as you go down the periodic table (this makes it very easy for them to give away electrons) but decreases as you go from left to right (thus more difficult to take away electrons).

Why? because as you add protons to the nucleus going across the table from left to right, the more the nucleus squeezes in itself and thus, making the entire atom smaller and the attraction of the electrons to the nucleus stronger.

And based upon these facts, it means that the ionization energy (the amount of energy needed to remove an electron) and electronegativity (the ability to gain electrons) increase going from left to right and decrease going from top to bottom.

Phew. I didn’t mean to give you a chemistry lesson but this is just to give you an idea of how to break things down and see some patterns.

4. Relate your topic to something that you see every day and actually understand.

Using the same atomic radius example above, take a picture of an atom and relate it to something you recognize, like an onion.

An onion has a lot of outer layers. The bigger the onion, the more layers it has and the longer it takes to reach to its core. It’s also very easy to peel off its top layers but the inner layers takes some work. This is easily compared to the atom. The top layer/valence shell of the electrons is the most reactive. Because the inner layers are closer to the nucleus, then its harder for them to be removed.

5. Always use visual demonstrations

This may include finding interesting videos on youtube, like this one, that has a lot of visual representation, animation, and clear and precise explanations.

You can also try free websites like Khan Academy or any of these free online courses to help you with any clarifications.

Of course, if you need one-on-one help, I am available through skype sessions (if you live outside of Nassau, Bahamas).

6. Repeat after me: Cramming is WRONG!

You cannot, and I repeat, CANNOT study for a chemistry test the night of…or even the week of. you will fail. Trust me.

The only way to completely understand chemistry is to ensure that you are looking at your notes and applying them, ideally, after every lesson.

If you don’t have the time, then pay special attention to your homework. Ask questions about it when you don’t understand. Don’t just hand in crappy work to pass and ignore it. Take your time to ensure you understand what you are talking about.

Once you understand these concepts, you will be a chem whiz in no time!

Happy studying! 🙂

 

 

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