Teachable Moments In Science: Kiera Wilmot

Photo via WikiMedia

Photo via WikiMedia

Science is fun! Part of the fun is failing, failing again, and pushing a hypothesis forward or rejecting it based off of evidence. This involves a ton of mistakes - some of which are more dangerous than others.  We need to learn how to turn reasonable mistakes into teachable moments.

16 year old Kiera Wilmot of Bartow High School mixed toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil on school grounds without supervision, resulting in a small non-harmful explosion. She was expelled for violating the school code of conduct, and faces felony charges of "possession/discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device." The gory details, including the full police report, are located on the Miami New Times website.

Kiera Wilmot, via Miami New Times

Kiera Wilmot, via Miami New Times

The real problem is with the school and the police. When a kid makes a mistake that's not severe, it can be easily turned into a teachable moment. How about suspension instead of expulsion, with the requirement of a lab assignment based on the very experiment that was tried by Kiera? How about requiring a presentation by her to the class and/or principal to show mastery of the subject? This solution combines a reasonable punishment with additional academic work to help Kiera learn the proper way to conduct experiments. It also gives the adults involved another way to gauge her understanding of the scientific method. The penalties should go up for repeated offenses, up to and including expulsion. 

For more about how scientific curiosity helps us all win, check out my post Curiosity Kills the Gap.

This post also appears on TWIB.

The Space Age: Shuttles and Stations


When the average American thinks about space, both the space shuttle and the space station usually come to mind. Two milestones related to both of these achievements are being celebrated this week!

I was lucky enough to see Atlantis take off last year, and now it is taking on its final journey - a 10 mile trek from the Vehicle Assembly Building (where shuttles hang out)  to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) visitor center. This will definitely be the easiest of the shuttle retirement trips, but it is still a task that requires intense expertise and planning. C

The International Space Station also celebrates a milestone - 12 years ago, the first crew began living on the station!  Check out the crew of Expedition 1 below, consisting of USA Commander Bill Shepherd and Russian Flight Engineers Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko. The ISS has served as a beacon of international cooperation, especially between the former Cold War adversaries.  They've worked together to provide wonderful images like this one provided by my Google+ buddy Erica Joy,