I was preparing for a homeschool program about snowflakes which included a “create your own snowflake” activity using pipe cleaners, boiling water, and Borax. My colleague and I decided to prep one as an example and give the participants the supplies to recreate the experiment at home.
I filled a large jar with boiling water and dumped in the required amount of Borax, but the concoction didn’t look right. After rereading the directions, I realized that I was supposed to stir the mixture after each tablespoon of Borax to ensure the ingredients combined correctly. I would have to start all over again. I grumbled to my colleague and stomped out of the room with the jar to boil more water, and found myself close to tears.
This is science, and I hate it. Not because I make mistakes, and not because it’s too complicated or beyond the scope of my job requirements.
I hate science because it makes me feel dumb. Every failure reinforces the story I tell myself: that if I was smarter or more talented then I would do the experiments correctly every time. I’m so worried about doing science “wrong” that I never enjoy the preparation or the process. I can’t wait for the science-based programs to be over so I can do the activities that I enjoy, that make me feel smart and capable and talented.
I realized yesterday that if I feel this way, then there must be kids who feel this way too. Kids who love to read or do math or learn about history, but struggle when it comes to science. And with a science-based summer reading program looming on the horizon, it would behoove me to create and facilitate programs that allow for mistakes and encourage all kids to enjoy the process, not just the ones who already love science.
I realized something else in that moment: for some kids, it’s not science that makes them feel dumb; it’s reading. I love books and reading so much that I made them the focus of my career; reading makes me feel smart and powerful. But reading may be the one thing that makes another child or adult feel sad and powerless and dumb. That awareness should also be part of every program I create and facilitate too.
When I arrived at work this morning, I found this on my desk:
(Photo courtesy of guest blogger)
Our guest blogger today is Casey O’Leary. Casey is the Director of Youth Services for the Mooresville Public Library in Mooresville, Indiana, where she spends much of her time doing outreach to local schools and community groups. She hopes to become less intimidated by in-house programming involving crafts. You can follow her on Twitter: @ltbloomlib.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at email@example.com.