In elementary school, every time the teacher wanted to explain a science concept in a kid-friendly way, the TV was turned on, and Bill Nye appeared. I’m sure we all remember the good old days of “Bill Nye the science guy; Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!”
For the years Bill Nye was on his show, he drew the attention of wide audiences in many schools with his comedic personality and wacky humor, acting as a picture-perfect example of a science educator. The role of science education is often misrepresented or underrated in society. Many children of our generation are too distracted with tablets and video games to pay attention to the world around them, and marvel at the discoveries waiting to be made. Statistics show that Hispanic and African-American girls actually exhibit a higher level of interest in STEM fields than Caucasian girls, proving that wealth and privilege is most likely an inessential aspect. Parents and educators must find innovative ways to catch the attention of younger boys and girls, in order to nurture their interest of science early on, so they can explore and develop their subject interests later on.
The interest in science is shown to decline starting the age of around 11 (UK), and in surveys, most students say they enjoy science and it is interesting and important to know. However, the reason they are drawn away from science is because of the school curriculum; lots of ‘irrelevant’ information is taught (e.g. the periodic table) and the students struggle to find practical use for that kind of knowledge. I myself have experienced this problem when my science class discussed the Earth’s layers (why do I need to know this?).
To prove this, the National Science Foundation did a study asking a number of adults if they were interested in recent science and technology discoveries. About 90% reported an interest, however, less than 15% of the people felt well-informed about the subject. There was a strong correlation found in these stats in relation to level education and number of science and mathematics courses taken. If so many expressed interest in these issues, why is the level of informed participants so low?
After elementary school, I proceeded to completely forget about Mr. Nye for the next few years. However, I heard that he had recently received an honorary doctorate from Simon Fraser University. I had always assumed that Bill Nye had a PhD in whatever field he specialized in. So, I proceeded to do research. It turns out, Bill has a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell. (He has also received numerous honorary degrees from various universities.) I was astounded that he had so much influence over the science world, and that he drew so many kids to love and appreciate science. But he achieved something very important: Bill was able to portray science as a fun and interesting subject to learn about.
It’s not about what you learn, but how you learn. Early interests can heavily influence your future and career. The early introduction of science in a positive light is crucial to establishing a lifelong curiosity and wonder. Now, the next time you watch a Bill Nye video, remember that Bill, though without a ‘real’ doctorate degree, achieved something many scientists do not: he established a new generation of scientists through education.