When Nobel prize winning physicist, Isadore Rabi, was asked to explain his stellar career and life-long devotion to the study of science, he attributed it to his upbringing. He stated: “My mother made me a scientist without ever intending to. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: So? Did you learn anything today? But not my mother. “Izzy,” she would say, “did you ask a good question today?” That difference – asking good questions – made me become a scientist.”
I believe that the values that Rabi’s mother was championing – curiosity, creativity and exploration – go beyond the requirements for the study of science; they assisted Rabi to develop an intellectual framework with which he lived his life.
This week across the School we have celebrated science as part of National Science Week. This year’s theme is “Destination Moon: More Missions More Science.” We have engaged our students in the extraordinary stories flowing from the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Lunar Landing. We have presented daily quizzes, experiments and activities that are designed to whet our students’ appetite regarding this crucial area of study.
We do this to engage and motivate our students and open their eyes to the fantastic possibilities that can come through approaching the world with wonder. Additionally, we know that an understanding of experimental methodology and a familiarity with the evidentiary basis used to substantiate claims are highly useful and transferable life skills.
Beyond the demonstrated learning benefits of investing in science education there has arguably never been a more crucial time – in the face of significant global issues – to motivate our students to deepen their interest in science.
Our planet faces substantial challenges in climate, food supply and a growing population that will no doubt require the ingenuity of the scientific community to resolve. We need to produce the brilliant problem solvers who will inspire us to take the necessary steps to adjust our lifestyles while also utilising new technologies to reduce the problem.
Following the successful Apollo missions, the term “moonshot” has become parlance for an all-in approach to achieve a seemingly insurmountable goal. My hope is that in the Apollo anniversary celebrations we can gain inspiration from the extraordinary achievements of yesteryear to develop the courage to address our modern challenges.
In his call for public support for the Apollo program in 1962, US President John F Kennedy said: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”
It is our belief that through engaging our students in science and exploring the heroic stories of scientific advancement we will help inspire the next generation of scientists who are curious, questioning and determined to achieve their moonshot.