An IntroductionPosted: July 10, 2013
BEWARE: THIS IS NOT A BLOG ABOUT TEXTILES, CLEANING, COOKING OR HOME ECONOMICS…. AT LEAST NOT IN THE WAY YOU MIGHT IMAGINE.
I thought a good place to begin my Domestic Sciences blogging was to provide some context for the blog – the why and wherefore of undertaking this project. Essentially this is an assignment for an intensive class I am undertaking this July called ‘Communicating Science’. With a semester of classes squished into two weeks, there is no time to waste and this post (our first assignment) is due at the stroke of midnight…. or I guess just prior.
So by way of introduction I am going to discuss (in a very one-sided manner initially) what brings me to the course when I am not a scientist, as well as my attitude towards science, its place in our lives, how we relate to the idea of science, science communication, education and what ideas and questions the teaching sessions have so far provoked.
But first, I want to share my ‘mini-vision’ for this blog with you. As I have already said, I am not a scientist and so you may be wondering why I think I can write a ‘science’ blog. Well, there is rather a big clue in the blog title: Domestic Sciences. For those of you familiar with the term – and let’s be honest it is more likely to be women, Domestic Science will perhaps conjure up images of Home Economics – and probably cooking. Well, the latter is something I do know quite a bit about and it provides a very apt example of one way (among many) that non-scientists may practice science in their everyday lives. Domestic Science is another term for Home Economics, which was co-founded by the foremost female industrial and environmental chemist of the US in the 19th century, Ellen Swallow Richards and was a factor in opening the US college system up to a greater number of women. Wikipedia contributors align Domestic Science and Home Economics with Family and Consumer Science as, ‘an academic discipline that combines aspects of social and natural science. Family and consumer sciences deals with the relationship between individuals, families, and communities, and the environment in which they live’. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_and_consumer_science)
This is a rather neat description of my motivation for creating a science-focused blog. My current area of study is within the Master of Sustainability program and I am most interested in how we can change our behaviour to become more sustainable. So much of this relates to communication of complex ideas and concepts, including science – brought into sharp relief by the public debate over climate change in recent years. Ergo, I want to bring engaging science news, knowledge, and discovery into the context of everyday lives, language and meaning. Interestingly in writing about science communication Burns, O’Connor and Stocklmayer (2003) quote Schirato and Yell (1997) to define communication as, ‘. . . the practice of producing and negotiating meanings, a practice which always takes place under specific social, cultural and political conditions” (p. 186).
Hence, this is my own little experiment in science communication which is not about dumbing it down. Instead I am seeking to make scientific research and findings accessible and relevant for the like-minded and not-so-like-minded domestic scientists out there… and hopefully contributing to scientific literacy and intelligent, informed conversations. So go on – try it!
Just remember, science is, ‘the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment’ as defined by Oxford Dictionaries (online), (http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/science). Science is about following our curiosity for answers, satisfying a desire to define how things work and make improvements. Isn’t that what an engaged life is all about? Certainly something our curious children could teach us a thing or two about. However, while children are naturally curious, their interest in the natural world and its processes still need to be nurtured by the adults and institutions around them – therefore I encourage you to share your knowledge with them through an engaging approach. In support of this I hope to be able to post interesting activities for children to explore scientific concepts across a broad range of ‘disciplines’ around the home and garden, including cooking chemistry, backyard ecology, and much, much more. But don’t wait for activity sheets and ‘how to’ lists – start a conversation now.
Burns, TW, O’Connor, DJ, Stocklmayer, SM 2003, ‘Science Communication: A Contemporary Definition’, Public Understanding of Science, vol. 12, pp. 183-202.