You blinded me with science! Why kids need COSI.

Let me start by saying that no, this article is not going to be a sales pitch for COSI . Well, not an outright pitch anyway. It is, however, intended to make you think about what your child is facing in the future and how you can best prepare them for that future.

There is a lot of talk these days about STEM---science, technology, engineering and math. You hear it in commercials for school levies, read about it in newspaper articles, and see it all over the Web. The basic premise is that our children are going to need to be a lot more STEM savvy then we ever had to be in order to participate in the society in which they will be living in the future.

It is also about the fact that when you compare our kids to much of the rest of the world it turns out that they don't seem to be as STEM savvy as their foreign counterparts. Unfortunately, there are a wide variety of opinions out there about what it means to be STEM savvy or scientifically literate. Some talk about it in terms of making sure your child takes four years of rigorous math and science in high school. Some talk about needing to understand basic concepts of science and math in order to be able to understand the bigger issues. Some talk about being able to pass tests on these concepts. All of these are probably true to some extent, but I want to talk about science literacy in a little different way.

I believe that more than any of the above mentioned items, what your child will need in the future is the ability to think like a scientist thinks. What does that mean? It means the ability to ask good questions, to look for answers, to observe things, and to put together the many differing pieces of a problem or challenge into a whole picture. It means critical examination of things rather than taking them at face value. It means to be able to make informed decisions about the issues one is facing. It is about how your brain works and how you gather and organize information.

How many times have you heard someone laughingly say they never have been very good at math or science? We wear that admission as almost a badge of honor in our country. It is perfectly acceptable to say this in most circles. On the other hand, when was the last time you heard someone say they just have never been good at putting words together to form a sentence, or at reading the direction on a box of brownies? Not often I'd bet. If people do say it we see that as a disadvantage of some sort for that person.

It's time we start seeing science and math literacy in the same way. How can you determine if that home loan is good for you if you can't understand basic math? How can you decide how to vote on issues related to global warming if you don't understand the basic underlying concepts or are not able to figure out how to
find and sort through the information available to come to an educated conclusion?

Understanding the major debates of our time has become as basic as reading and requires the ability to use science even if you are not doing science. We live in an age of scientific discovery and our children are going to become adults in a world where information is changing by the minute rather than by the month or the year.

It will take all of us to make this shift in our culture-schools, homes and places like COSI. Your kids need COSI because it is a place where they can explore, question, nurture their curiosity, discover new ideas and think like scientists. Your kids needs COSI and other places like it because it is here that they will practice the skills that will be vital to a strong economy and strong society when they are raising children of their own.

If all of this is not enough to motivate you, just look at how things are shifting in this country. Our children are taking over leadership positions at younger and younger ages. These are the very people who will be making decisions about your life in the future. Don't you want them to be as well informed as the children in other countries? I sure do.

Places like COSI are fun to visit and we love that you have fun when you visit because we sure have fun doing the work! But underneath all that fun, there is so much more to what we do. We are a place that is trying to shape the way the brains of the next generation and the generations that follow work, so we can all live in a better world.

It is up to all of us to create a scientifically literate society so that together, we can create a better world that we all want for our children and for our children's children.