I saw this article last week and was kind of surprised it qualified as news.
Of course kids are little scientists. Science is basically just problem solving. Don’t know how something works? Try and figure it out. Whether it’s figuring out the structure of DNA, figuring out how to use a spoon, or figuring out why the toilet bowl is running, it’s the same process.
The title may well have been: “Everybody does science everyday!”
Let me explain what I mean.
Here’s a little flow chart outlining the steps in the scientific method:
It pretty much boils down to trial and error. If you’re right, you stop trying. If you’re wrong, you try again until something works.
Here’s that process applied to your running toilet bowl:
Question: Why is my toilet bowl constantly running?
Background Research: Google (or perhaps just do like grad students do and skip this step entirely)
Hypothesis: Something is wrong with my toilet and I know nothing about toilets. Maybe jiggling the handle will help.
Test with Experiment: Jiggle the handle.
Analyze: Still running? Nope. Great. or Still running? Yup. Crap.
Hypothesis is true/not true!
Report Results: You can skip this part because nobody cares about your toilet bowl- except maybe the plumber you have to call to fix the toilet.
Here’s that process as your baby would apply it to using a spoon:
Question: How does this work?
Background Research: Watch adults around you.
Hypothesis: It goes in my mouth.
Test with Experiment: Put spoon in mouth.
Analyze: Wow! This tastes great!
Hypothesis is partially true! It goes in my mouth and tastes great too!
Report Results: Shout, slobber, throw spoon on the floor, cry until you get it back.
Babies know nothing. They have to learn everything. Thus every day they face a mountain of problems to solve. How do I put myself to sleep? How do I get that woman/man’s attention? Same goes for kids- how does this toy work? How can I reach that cabinet with the junk food in it? How can I avoid going to bed at bedtime?
There’s a reason most people can (sometimes) agree on next steps to problem solving- because they proceed in a logical manner (this obviously does not apply to certain subgroups i.e. politicians). Whether it’s the copy machine, a check engine light or a little kid figuring out how to most effectively annoy his older sister, trial and error is the way to go.
I think the newsworthy-ness of this article really boils down to adults not knowing when they are, in fact, being scientists. What are the steps you take when your computer is running slow? Ctrl+Alt+Del? Quit a buggy application? Restart? Run a diagnostic? Check how much space is left on your hard drive? Each of those steps tests a variable, so, you’re being a scientist.
What about when your baby won’t stop crying? What variables do you check? Dirty, hungry, sleepy, bored, gassy, etc. You try/test each one and see which produces the desired results (quiet). If you finally find that the only thing that will calm your wailing infant is to listen to iTunes while watching its Vizualization feature- next time dirty/hungry/sleepy doesn’t work, you might just jump right to iTunes. You’ve used the scientific method to improve your parenting skills!
[The iTunes solution is one I know works based on empirical evidence gathered through rigorous, hands-on experimentation with my own infant. However, perhaps because I am an actual scientist, conducting experiments and such on a daily basis for my job, I totally recognized the Scientific Method/trial and error process at work in my own child rearing. I look back on my daughter’s infancy and think I should apologize for how long it took me to become proficient at mothering.]
Basically, everyone uses the Scientific Method every day, even if they don’t know it.
News Flash: Everybody is a scientist!