Wednesday, August 15, 2018

--- School away from school ---

Libraries, museums, parks, zoos, gardens...I think that most people thing of them as entertainment, and I guess they are, but they think of themselves as having educational missions. The difference is that they are not compulsory education. Children are subjected to grades K through 12 whether they want to be or not because society has deemed it important that citizens be prepared with the basic skills needed for personal and vocational success. After high school, people have some freedom of choice. They decide what they want to do with their lives and they "give themselves" for 3 to 12 years to some institution that is paid to train them in some field - vocational program, apprenticeship, technical school, college, university.

Personal education is different. If you want to know how to fix your broken plumbing, you can go to your local library and check out a book or a DVD that explains what you need to know. If you want to see animals, you can go to the zoo or aquarium. But many of these places also have classes - like in school, but you can pick and choose.

Many of the parks in the Denver area even give guided tours that teach about plants, animals, and the environment in this area. Some have informative plaques that offer self-guided tours.

The library in my neighborhood offered a "Space Party" that presented information about space science and tips for watching the upcoming Persied meteor shower. I thought it was an adult program - it was a childrens' program - but that was okay. I'm not doing astronomy right now; I'm doing social science, and education is a social science.

Actually, education is somewhat of a hybrid. How we learn is definitely in the domain of psychology, but much of education is what happens between teachers, the student, and the other students - not to mention the organization that is the school.

So I settled down to watch the show, and a show it was. The presenter had his act down well. Meteors, the solar system, rockets, and mars exploration - the children were fascinated as much by the information (which was surprisingly substantial) as by his theatrics - acting, choreography, sleight of hand, special effects (demostrations). And the kids asked great questions. They showed themselves surprisingly knowledgable about space science ($11 and million dollar space dollars were handed out for correct answers).

So, it was a fun time for all. The program (SpaceTimeKids - if you're curious, they're on the Internet at is particularly appropriate for this area. Denver has long been a center for the space program with Lockheed Martin nearby in Littleton, and a new focus in the Colorado School of Mines is space science and space  mining.

Does libraries, museums, zoos, gardens, and parks in your area offer educational programs or tours? Often they will have websites that provide schedules or calendars of events.

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