The Joy of Discovery

In October 2008, I was fortunate enough to attend a conference at Cornell University put on by the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society. It was a really informative conference on a beautiful campus and I had a really great time.

My absolute favourite part, however, didn’t involve any of the talks during the day, or the poster session, either; my favourite part of the conference was the guy introducing the public lecture. The introducer’s name: Bill Nye.

Yes, that Bill Nye.

Bill Nye (the Science Guy) is obviously big into science education. So am I. The things he said during his 15 minute introduction stayed with me. He spoke about his involvement with the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers. He was part of a committee that chose the following message to be written on these rovers, among all the scientific instrumentation:

“To those who visit here, we wish a safe journey and the joy of discovery.”

I got chills. I thought to myself, Yes! That’s what it’s all about: The joy of discovery. That’s what science education should be all about.

Bill wasn’t done:

“And I hope one of you one day will go up there and read it.”

More chills.

“When it comes to science, it’s got to be important to everyone” … “Science isn’t a thing. Science is something done by people. Science is an idea, a process that humans came up with to embrace and enjoy the joy of discovery.”

Critical chill capacity.

Don’t get me wrong, the speaker who followed Bill was fantastic; he was someone who very successfully brought astronomy and science to the public in an engaging way. But it was Bill that stayed with me. And now that I’m starting my journey to becoming a teacher, it’s something that I keep thinking about. “The Joy of Discovery”. In a nutshell, that’s what I want to bring to the table as a teacher.

So, thanks, Bill.

(Oh, and if you think that I left that lecture without snagging a picture with him, you clearly underestimate my love for the Science Guy.)

Bill Nye

By the way, the lecture (in its nearly-two-hour entirety) can be found here, posted by Cornell University. Bill’s part finishes up about 17 minutes into the video.


2 thoughts on “The Joy of Discovery

  1. Hi Emily,

    I was incredibly inspired by your post. We talked about writing with voice and being “you” online and you did it with magic. Your excitement and passion about learning is absolutely inspirational and addictive.
    What I heard you saying was that you want to instill the love of learning and inquiry into young folks and help them see the utter enjoyment that one can get when we learn new things and discover for ourselves.
    In your own experience as a student, what were the specific situations that gave you that joy of discovery? What pedagogues were used? How has this shaped your own philosophy of education?

    • emsheridan says:

      Hi Zoe, Thank you so much for your comment! Yes, I want to be all about inquiry and learning. It’s something that came built in (to a certain extent) with me and it’s something that I constantly want to infect other people with.
      Those are great questions. I’m going to have to think about those … I feel like answering them will take up an entire post.

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