During freshman chemistry class in high school, I felt like I was constantly a few protons short of a nucleus. Or something like that. I’ve never been very good at science.
Science challenged me because I didn’t have much of a mind for it. I remember cheating all the time on the daily quizzes on the elements. Although, in my defense, our teacher left up a massive elements chart that covered the entire back of the wall of the classroom. And when our teacher asked me during class whether a balloon left in a freezer would contract or expand, he might as well have asked me if I could explain the Theory of Relativity. Science bored me and left me unengaged. Unless we were trying to blow something up or dissect a dead animal. Otherwise, I would have rather been reading computer code.
For years, my interest in science remained where it was when I took my final mandatory science class in college — dormant.
But like an animal waking from hibernation, my science interest came to life when my children were old enough to ask questions like where do clouds come from? How do astronauts get into space? What is water made from? How do things grow? My desire to answer them and my feelings of inadequacy forced me to confront a fundamental fear — I know little about life science, physical science or any kind of science, for that matter, and if I don’t want my children to grow up with the same lack of knowledge or interest, I’d better do something about it.
So I did.
In our house, David Attenborough, of those brilliantly beautiful and wildly informative BBC series like “Life” and “Earth” is a rock star. So is Neil DeGrasse Tyson and his reboot of the “Cosmos” series. We watch those shows with our children and marvel at the wonders around us, how humans wound up here and what bounties the future holds for us.
We also read books about space travel, the planets and stars and how things work. And we show science at work by doing the occasional (safe) experiment.
And our renaissance with science is paying off. Our oldest is fascinated with space — so much so that for Christmas Santa brought him a telescope that brings the moon into full bloom right before our eyes each night. He dreams of one day traveling to Mars. Our youngest is fascinated with bugs and animals, giving him a glimpse into the scientific world beneath dirt and fur.
If it weren’t for their interest, Space X wouldn’t be on my radar. Neither would my burning desire to catch the total eclipse that will occur over the summer. I wouldn’t routinely check NASA’s website for new concepts or discoveries in the scientific world or follow half a dozen of the brightest science minds on Twitter.
What began as my desire to instill a love of science in my children has blossomed into a new love affair with science in my mind, too.