If you haven’t read my last post, you should, as this one is a follow up to it. I’d like to continue on with more of what we can all do to get young minds interested in science. Last time I mostly talked about how simple it can be to interact with your child and spark their curiosity. Anyone a child looks up to has to power to inspire them.
I may have made it seem like I condemn kids watching TV. I should clarify that this is not the case. A little TV can help to nurture a child’s imagination, and sometimes even educate them. I’m not a big fan of most of the educational shows around today. The little bit of education hidden in them is engulfed by pointless flashy graphics, time filling pauses waiting for an “answer” and poorly thought out stories. While repeating numbers and letters may be beneficial to toddlers, children past that stage have few options for quality educational programming.
When I think back to my child hood shows like Bill Nye the Science Guy, Inquiring Minds and Popular Mechanics for Kids come to mind. What is different about these shows? There was very little to no filler. They were nearly 100% education. In fact, Bill Nye’s “Rules” for the Science Guy show stated that “The science being explored provides the drama.” (The original document was reprinted in the front of Bill’s newest Book Unstoppable). When I read this, I thought back, and it dawned on me. That’s what’s different about shows now. 18 of the 22 minutes of running time are taken up by characters trying to find a lost object, or helping out a friend with 4 minutes of education squeezed in there.
Not to say every show these days is like that, but the ones my girlfriend’s daughter watches sure are. But why do shows need to be presented like this? Why can’t we go back to the shows which kept us on the edge of our seats using only facts? I’m sure many people could give you many different answers. My answer? There isn’t one, because they don’t have to be like that.
These old shows, which my generation grew up watching still hold the attention of kids today. My little girl gets excited when we ask if she wants to watch Bill Nye. She constantly asks questions through the whole episode, then at the end wants to run off and do experiments! I’ve seen the same reaction in my cousins too. Rainy day at the cottage? No problem, a couple episodes of the Science Guy, and an afternoon full of experimenting. The best part is I still enjoy watching it too, which means I stay more involved with her. And like I said in my last post, that is more important than anything else I can suggest.
Again, I’m not against kids watching TV. But don’t treat it like a baby sitter, and don’t act like kids won’t watch educational shows. Instead, think critically about what they’re watching. Find shows which really highlight the learning, not corny writing. With all the tools and devices we have, find a way to watch some of those old shows. File sharing laws are different and constantly changing everywhere, so I’m going to avoid that altogether, but Netflix alone carries some amazing educational shows. Or try the video store; many of the programs I mentioned can be found on DVD. Turn TV from a bad stereotype of mind numbing garbage to a useful resource of knowledge and activities which will help build a strong foundation of a lifelong love of learning.