Today we took the children to the Exploratorium, the wonderful hands-on science museum in San Francisco.

More brains
via Flickr

While we were there, we were interviewed by a Santa Cruz grad student who’s writing a dissertation on science education. She observed us at one of the experiments, then interviewed the kids about the Exploratorium. What was fun about it? Did they feel like scientists when they were there? How was it different from science classes at their school?

Robot
via Flickr

This last question– or something pretty close to it– proved to be a hard one for them. Interviewing them about hands-on science turned out to be a bit like interviewing fish about water: coming from Peninsula, they really haven’t been exposed to other ways of learning about science.

Robot
via Flickr

I hope they don’t slow her research down too much by being weird outliers in her data-set.
The question about whether the kids think they’re being scientists at the Exploratorium got me thinking: in some ways, they’re not scientists, but subjects. Obviously for someone interviewing them for a dissertation about science museums, they’d count as subjects; but I realized that when I go with them to the Exploratorium, I’m usually observing them, trying to figure out what engages them, and how to nudge them toward engaging with the the exhibits in ways that are more likely to make them remember some deeper principle afterwards.