Monday, June 04, 2007

Using Science Fiction to teach Science in India

On the Research and Media Network Dr. Arvind Mishra writes about a study in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, India that science fiction can effectively teach science to both school children and lay people. He asks if this method of teaching science is used elsewhere around the world.

As I've written about previously, I think that's a great idea. At least here in the U.S. there seem to be some teachers who are using science fiction books and movies - both with good science and with bad science - to teach basic scientific concepts. I get the impression, however, that some are reluctant to use that approach because it might seem frivolous. Is that an accurate impression? I'd love to hear from people who are actually using science fiction as a science teaching tool. (via SF Signal)

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7 comments:

arvind mishra said...

We have tried to introduce following to lay people using tableaux based on sf stories.
A. Cloning :Along with a mythological story sf dpictions on cloning very well explained the process and implications of the emerging technology to lay people.
B. Biotechnology : The science fictional biotech tree[very akin to mythological 'wishing tree'] demonstrated the potential of biotechnology.
C. Internet : Various parts of internet were displayed using sf themes.
D. Aforestation : The exhibits based on sf stories demonstrated the role of forests in human life .
E. Non conventional energy :Promotion and Use of non conventional energy sources.
F. Water harvesting : Traditional techniques of rain water harvesting and its necessity as narrated in many sf stories.
G. Rational use of pesticides : Promoting bio-pesticides instead of chemical pesticides ON THE BASIS OF PICTORIAL DEMONSTRATION OF RACHEL Carson's famous story'SILENT SPRING'.
H. Bio diesel :TAKING HELP OF OF STORIES ON ENERGY CRISIS OF NEAR FUTURE the use of Indian Jatropha plant was promoted for production of bio diesel.
I. Tsunami : Awareness and preservation of natural mangroves is the key was demonstrated after demonstrating many catstrophe models as described in sf stories.
THANKS PEGGY FOR GIVING ROOM TO OUR MODEST EFFORTS IN INDIA INSOFAR SF IS CONCERNED.

Peggy said...

Thanks for stopping by Dr. Mishra!

That's an impressive range of topics. I've always thought that people who would be put off by a technical explanation can readily follow the same ideas when told in the form of a story.

Michal said...

I'm going to be using Frankenstein to teach about the medical controversies of the day (between vitalism and materialism). That's history of science, rather than science, so I'm not sure it counts.
I think science fiction is a wonderful way to look at the scientific issues of a particular period as so much science ficton very clearly deals with the issues of the day. Think Joan Vingte (sp?) and the Heaven Chronicle published in the seventies. It's all about environmental fears and the running out of resources. H. G. Well and evolution. And so on.

Peggy said...

I think you are right, Michal. Science fiction does tell us a lot about the time in which it was written. In fact, a lot of the science in the science fiction from 30, 40, 50 years ago is far out of date, but it does paint a picture of what was new and exciting in science at the time, as well as introduce the controversies and fears of the day.

skroderider said...

>I get the impression, however, that some are reluctant to use that approach because it might seem frivolous. Is that an accurate impression?
I guess the mainstream perception is still somewhat biased towards accepting sf as literature even though sf now has a niche of it's own, and more. That might cause some hesitation on the part of teachers who don't read sf themselves. Atleast that's the impression I've gotten from some. But it seems like a great idea - imagine the possibilites, all those young minds ignited with the sense of wonder that sf provides, and the interest it's going to kindle in them to study science later...

- Hrishikesh

Peggy said...

Hrishikesh: I think that it's a good point that some teachers don't read science fiction themselves. (I forget sometimes that not everyone does). I've met a surprising number of people who still think science fiction is only about space ships and ray guns.

ज़ाकिर अली ‘रजनीश’ said...

Good thinking.
Congrats.