Out of the Classroom and into the Street with Cognitive Science Safaris


More Curiosity Driven Learning in the news! Today the Wall Street Journal reported on Professor Tom Stafford, of the University of Sheffield in the U.K., who takes his psychology students out of the classroom and into the streets to see living examples of the principles he’s trying to teach.

In his most recent ”cognitive science safari” , Stafford reproduced a classic social science experiment in which a stranger someone is speaking with is imperceptibly swapped out for a completely different person.  It’s one thing to read a text book entry on “change blindness” and  the fact that 50% of people don’t realize they’re speaking to a different person, and an entirely different experience to see it first hand.

“Hands-on science centers for kids have long existed,” observes the Journal. ” But in recent years, there have been increased efforts to appeal to young adults and spur people’s interest in science through “experiences” at weekslong festivals and citywide initiatives such as the Berlin “mobile lab” in which Dr. Stafford participated, sponsored by German auto maker BMW AG, and the Guggenheim Foundation.  The efforts may also be changing the public perception of scientists as loners in white coats, hanging out with lab rats.”

Or the idea that science is out of reach of ordinary people, many of whom already have a natural curiosity about science, as evidence by the huge growth in Citizen Science opportunities.  Regional  Mini-Maker Faires, like the LI4E  produced Tampa Bay Mini Maker Faire, programs like the Institute of Physics “Physics in the Field” , and events like the Cambridge Science Festival’s Science on the Street initiative and the St. Petersburg Science Festival here in LI4Es neck of the woods (and where LI4E will host some hands on fun in October!),  all aim to make science and technology engaging and accessible.

Some of Stafford’s effort met with mixed results, but a lot of science often does.

Like Stafford told the Journal, science is a “very human activity.”

Another great reason to bring it within the grasp of everyday humans.