Sunday, June 21, 2009

Observations at the science museum

A couple of weeks ago, we took our son for a day trip to the national science museum of this country, which is not too far from where we live. Perhaps "museum" is not the best word, it's the kind of place that is filled with hand-on games and activities that teach you something about science. You know the kind I'm talking about. This one was very impressive, especially for the size of the country. It's also almost exclusively about physics and math, so Boyfriend and I were like kids at Disneyland. They had some of the usual stuff, but some very cool things too I had never seen before. We all had a really good time.

While I was there, I couldn't help to put on my "gender in science bias" glasses, and I saw things that surprised me. Mostly, there were a lot more boys than girls around. There weren't that many young children there, at 4.5 years Chatton was one of the youngest, mostly 8-16 year olds I would say. There were so many teenage boys, that it really made you wonder where they had put all the girls. Perhaps there was just a gigantic school group of boys (but again, where were the girls taken to, gender-separated schools are really not the thing around here), or is it possible that parents will tend to go to a place like that more if they have boys than if they have girls? I'm not sure what was going on, I'd like to go back another time and see if I observe the same thing. But wouldn't it be very sad if for some reason girls were on average deprived of such experiences, where science is just about having fun?

I also had the feeling that girls (and women) were more attracted to the math and geometry kind of activities than the more physics-related ones. But again, I would need more data to support that observation.

No matter what, Chatton had an amazing time there, we had to work hard to convince him to leave after more than five hours. He obviously didn't get much from the physical concepts behind the games, but still he was exposed to all of it and enjoyed every second of it. Isn't that what we should do to get people excited about science - and especially girls! I really hope then that my observation is wrong...

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