Conference season has begun! This year, we kicked off with poster session at SciCOMM 2016. This great event allowed us a chance to engage with the local community and to have some in depth discussion with those interested in what we’re doing.
Friday night found us in the Railyard making paper airplanes with kids of all ages (and, even their parents). We also wore awesome hats. Our idea was simple: bring a ream of copy paper and have people show us their idea of what a paper airplane should look like. Through this, we engaged them in discussion about what the airplane does, what impact different designs have on the functions of the airplane. The idea starting from a place of “what do you want the airplane to do?” – having the participants decide the specific objectives. Then, working together to see how we could design and airplane to be faster, go further, flip. For those who had no idea how to make an airplane, we had a couple of stock designs to teach them.
I think one of the greatest things about this for me was being able to articulate to people how easy it can be to engage in a learning moment without feeling the need for the usual trappings of school. We were not in a traditional classroom, we were not using traditional curriculum or materials. Yet, we transformed our outdoor table into an interactive, educational experience.
Whole families came by to see how to make paper airplanes, to talk about aerodynamics, to talk about engineering (how to design for a target purpose) to talk about science – and to have fun. Several siblings decided to have a competition. To see who could create the airplane that would fly the longest, that would go the highest, that would complete the highest number of loops. Science doesn’t always have to be complicated. Teaching and learning doesn’t always require a classroom.