How to Be an Everyday Scientist

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Why This Matters: Science is found naturally in our daily lives and we should look for ways to explore and engage in it as it presents itself.

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

You don’t have to work in a lab or figure out complex equations to appreciate science in your everyday life. Science is all around us and we should be mindful of how it presents itself throughout our day, said Charla Fields, senior director of community engagement and impact at Discovery Place.

“You make pancakes for breakfast – that’s science. Jump on your trampoline – you’re actually participating in a physics experience,” Fields said. “Work in your garden – that’s natural science. When your lamp breaks, you tinker with it to get it up and running again.

“It’s important to recognize these opportunities so that you can maximize them and learn science in practice and not just theory.”

With that in mind, here are four ways to explore and go deeper with science on a regular basis.

Wing Haven photo by Jeff Cravotta.

1. Keep a Journal. You can be like Wing Haven founder Elizabeth Clarkson, who kept a journal noting every species of bird she nursed back to health or saw in her garden in Charlotte’s Myers Park neighborhood. In 1944, she compiled these observations in the self-published “Birds of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, North Carolina,” a comprehensive guide to local and migratory birds.

You don’t have to publish your findings, but regularly journaling about your garden or the wildlife you encounter on hikes or in your backyard can fuel your curiosity of the natural world.

Discovery Place visitors exploring Make.

2. Be a Maker. Makers are creative and resourceful thinkers, doers and learners – from amateur inventors and tinkers to hobbyists, techies and engineers. Discovery Place provides experiences for them to build, design, tinker and engineer through initiatives like the Charlotte Mini Maker Faire – the annual celebration of Makers across our region – and through the museum’s new spaces like the “Thinker Space” lab and the “Think It Up” exhibition experience.

“We are all innately Makers,” Fields said. “As a Maker, you are empowered to do whatever is intrinsically yours. There are no rules, boundaries, expectations or requirements. In my opinion, the best part of making is the process. You learn new things, use awesome tools and discover skills and talents that you may not have realized you possessed.”

A Digi-Bridge scholar exploring hands-on STEAM activities at #STEAMSaturdays.

3. Learn to Code. Understanding code and computer programming is an important skill in today’s digital world. It’s one of the reasons Digi-Bridge, a local nonprofit committed to ensuring that all 21st-century learners have opportunities to succeed in the digital age, provides students in grades K-8 with a fun way to explore computer programming and code in its #STEAMSaturdays program, supported in part by an ASC Cultural Vision Grant.

“Our scholars are sponges, seeking all opportunities to soak up new knowledge and skill,” said Digi-Bridge founder David Jessup. “They imitate those they admire and will find success if given the time and opportunity to pursue it.”

Learning to code for everyone and there are plenty of places online where you can learn to code for free.

Carolina Raptor Center.

4. Volunteer. Carolina Raptor Center needs volunteer aviary caretakers to help in the upkeep of raptor enclosures for birds being rehabilitated and for the center’s permanent residents. As a roots volunteer at Wing Haven, you can get you your hands dirty in the garden, share the history of the garden and more. If you’re a science, technology, engineering or math expert and want to share your expertise, let Digi-Bridge know. At Discovery Place, volunteers work with visitors on the museum floor or behind the scenes caring for animals and artifacts.