In the same way that cells are the fundamental component of living things and atoms are the fundamental component of matter, science is a fundamental part of learning at St. John’s-Kilmarnock School. The Science Fair has its roots in the earliest days of our community, and we celebrated our 44th Annual Science Fair on Monday of this week. Scientific inquiry is a pillar of the student experience at our school, and student participants each year are adding their names and efforts to a rich and evolving legacy. Many of our returning judges are SJK alumni who are actively working in STEM fields, and the seeds that have grown into their current passions were planted in their days as Science Fair participants.
The pursuit of rich and refined scientific knowledge continues to be an important goal for all of our students. The past two years have served as a reminder of the value that science has in our daily lives. However, it is important to recognize that science is more than just a body of disciplinary knowledge; it exists beyond labels like biology, chemistry, and physics.
Science provides us with an important way of knowing and understanding the world around us so we can make sense of it. It is a method of inquiry. Science empowers students to ask important questions and then equips them with the perspectives and methods to seek out the answers to those questions. It reinforces the importance that claims about scientific knowledge must be justified by a comprehensive process of evidence collection through experimentation and observation.
Students learn to assess the validity of their knowledge based on the presence or absence of evidence to support a claim. Our goal through experimentation is not to establish a definitive notion of absolute right or absolute wrong, but to determine whether we can find evidence to support or refute a hypothesis. One of the big lessons of science is also related to its responsiveness to change; if new evidence is found to support or refute a claim, scientific knowledge is updated, refining and evolving with time. If it were not for this key element of science, we would still believe in a geocentric model of the solar system or that light propagates through aether that floats between the Earth and the Sun.
Strong skills of scientific inquiry are important for all students. Occasionally, we encounter students who will glorify science simply because it is science. The true importance of learning in the sciences is to understand that its reputation as a strong and sturdy area of knowledge is founded on its guiding principles and methods, and not based on some unfounded deification. Scientific claims should be well-reasoned, justified with evidence, and verifiable by others. It is through these methods that science acts as a candle to illuminate the darkness. As Carl Sagan once said, science is “how deep truths are winnowed from deep nonsense.”