Tyler DeWitt is willing to bet that you weren’t exactly crazy about your high school science classes, but he doesn’t blame you. In this video, Tyler talks about how forces within science education have managed to take a fascinating subject filled with riveting stories, colorful characters, and spectacular demonstrations, and eviscerate it of its joy, excitement, and intellectual engagement.
Early in his career as a high school science teacher, Tyler had what he recalls as a horrifying realization: that while his students were learning little content from textbooks and traditional educational resources, they were learning to hate science. He attempted to counter this trend by telling elaborate stories in class that featured bacteria, viruses, DNA, and other characters central to Biology. Here, Tyler tells a short, fun, and engaging story about the clever ways in which viruses attack their targets.
Science communication should be a narrative, he argues, that draws on analogies, metaphors, humor, and emotional connection. But all too often, it is bogged down by a cult-like aversion to humor, and by a tyrannical adherence to technical jargon. Now a Ph.D. student at MIT, Tyler accepts that highly technical scientific communication is essential for conveying ideas between experts, but that for teaching young learners, it does much more harm than good. In the end, Tyler challenges fellow scientists to share their ideas with the public, but to “leave out the seriousness, leave out the jargon, make me laugh, make me care, leave out those annoying details . . . and tell a story.”
Tyler plans to do a TEDxBeaconStreet adventure this summer. It will be a super hands-on lab adventure called “All the fun you never had in Chemistry class.” Participants will make slime, extract their own DNA, synthesize artificial flavors, build hydrogen-powered rockets, use forensic chemistry to solve a mystery, and much more. Stay tuned!