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January 7th, 2011

gfish: (Default)
Friday, January 7th, 2011 11:46 am
A couple weeks ago I saw this adorable peer-reviewed paper. It was authored by a class of gradeschool kids, but published in a real journal. It's certainly not the best paper ever written, but it's not bad. And what an awesome experience for those kids!

Over this last week I've been thinking about how one might motivate an intelligent but poorly focused child. Due to some recent reading, I have an idea for what could be a very interesting project for such a child, but I don't know what they would do it with it beyond personal edification. Make a science fair entry out of it, I guess, but I don't know how that works. Do those really happen? I certainly never did one. The lack of a public venue for research projects for that age group seems crucial -- when I have a setting in which I can show off what I've done, I'm way, way more motivated. Selfish and simplistic, but true. Blogs and Burning Man have absolutely made me the project-oriented person that I am. (...whether or not that is a good thing is beyond the scope of this post.)

Putting these two things together, the obvious conclusion in my mind is science journals for kids. (Probably a couple of different age ranges.) Do a real peer-reviewed submission process -- with real peers, since that side of things is just as important to experience and understand. It mostly wouldn't be new science, of course, that's a pretty high bar to set. But just provide a venue for the publication of well-written papers describing age-appropriate research. As the age group increases, so does the expected complexity of research and the level of the write-up. Despite my normal technocrat tendancies, it needs to be physically published, to make it that much more of an incentive to submit. I would have gone ape over that opportunity as a kid, holy wow yes.

I'm not going to pretend I have the time, experience or even inclination to actually attempt this. But I'm throwing it out there on the off-chance it finds root somewhere. Or someone tells me why it's actually a bad idea for reasons I'm to personal-anecdote-driven to see. Or that it already exists, though a cursory web search didn't turn anything up. I bet you could get some grant funding for something like this, if you were really motivated.