Why we do…informal science education

Seth Jarvis

I’ve got two short videos that I want you to take a couple of minutes to watch.  Seriously – they’re worth your time. 

For both videos, please go full-screen, HD, and make sure your speakers are turned up.

The first video (about 11 minutes) is this: Amateur rocketeers reach for the stars

Finished watching?

How cool was that?

Next, have a look at this (five minute) video: Challenges of getting to Mars: Curiosity’s seven minutes of terror

Challenges of getting to Mars: Curiosity's seven minutes of terror

Again, full screen, HD, speakers up!

If you’re not completely thunderstruck by the boldness and daring vision of that mission, by the dazzling brilliance of the minds behind it, by the passion, dedication and hard work of the people who built it, and by the huge payoff to our nation, scientifically and economically, that this undertaking represents, then I don’t know what to say to you except maybe, watch it again and this time pay closer attention.

Now then, think about that first video, about those high school “rocketeers.”

What has gone on in those kids’ lives that gave them the enthusiasm to pursue getting their rockets so fast, so high, and so far?

Can you see that it’s the kind of kids from the first video who go on to be the kind of adults featured in the second video?

Now ask yourself this – what happened to the kids in the first video before they were in high school that got them that excited about rockets?  Where does that enthusiasm come from?

There are many correct answers to that question, but one of them is that these kids and their families got in the habit of going to places like Clark Planetarium to get a regular dose of what is known as “informal science education.”

This type of science education, taking place outside of the formal classroom setting, turns out to be hugely significant to how well students do in their formal science classes.

Kids who do well in science in elementary school become science enthusiasts in high school…

and become science and engineering majors in college…

and become the folks who figure out how to land a one-ton rolling scientific laboratory on Mars.

THAT is why we do the work we do here.

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2 thoughts on “Why we do…informal science education

  1. I am trying to find out which planet am I seeing in the east of Ogden, Utah, at around 5 in the morning.There are actually 2 planets and the smaller one I am assuming is Venus. But the larger, brighter one has me stumped. Are you able to help me? My husband and I have seen it going on for 2 weeks now and we would love to know which planet it is.
    Thanks for any information.

  2. Barbara,

    You’re seeing Jupiter and Venus. Venus is the brighter of the two, and is below Jupiter. Thanks for your question!

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