GeekMom is thrilled to bring our readers another column by Kari Byron, the female face on the hit Discovery Channel show MythBusters and host of the Science Channel’s new Head Rush. Kari sends us regular updates on life as a MythBuster Mom.
Science is hot right now. Everywhere I travel parents are in a panic to get their kids interested in science. I guess one day, America woke up and realized our pipeline of home-grown engineers, scientists, and inventors was drying up.
Let’s face it: subjects like science and math have an unfortunate reputation for being boring and dry and, dare I say, even “nerdy.” Honestly, that is how I felt when I was 12. Science was so often taught as a list of facts to memorize: “List the components of a cell,” “What does H2O stand for?” “Who is the father of the theory of relativity?” Snore. I didn’t understand why science couldn’t be more like art class. So I can understand where kids are coming from today.
Another huge roadblock for students is the lack of role models in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (what the President calls the STEM initiative) in our media-driven world of glamour, fame, and money. Close your eyes and picture a scientist. Do you see an awkward nerdy man with bad posture, glasses and a lab coat? Who wants to be him when you are inundated with exciting visions of gorgeous movie stars and rich athletes?
Solutions aren’t easy. Parents ask me, “How do I get my kid into science?”
The good news is that if you are asking that question it probably means you are half way there. Being involved is an amazing start. A parent is the most important role model, regardless of what your eye-rolling tween says.
I like to teach science to kids like I teach art. Get their hands dirty. Engage their natural curiosity. Drop Mentos into a bottle of Diet Coke and let it explode all over the backyard. Snap! That’s chemistry. Show them science isn’t just answers on an exam, but the world all around you. Take a nature walk with a camera. Bring home pictures of animals and find out what they eat, when they sleep. Snap! That’s biology. I also like to call it hiding the broccoli in the cheese sauce. Making science more hands-on creates a base of scientific literacy as well as quality time bonding. Your kids will be learning in spite of themselves. That look of wonder and discovery you see in their faces will become addictive -– for both of you.
That’s how MythBusters became a juggernaut of science engagement for kids. We weren’t trying to teach science, we were just having fun while using science as a tool. They see us having fun and join us on the journey.
There you have it, sage advice from a totally unqualified former art major who now loves science and uses it every day.
Kari Byron is a born tinkerer and explorer. By the age of 5, she was experimenting on her sister and using dolls as crash test dummies. Luckily for her parents, they always caught her right before her little sister took a ride down a laundry chute or was the subject of an "around-the-world" attempt on the playground swings. Kari began her career as a sculptor and painter before finding her dream jobs on MythBusters and Head Rush, where she gets to explore and experiment to her heart’s content. Kari lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and daughter.