Whether it’s uninspiring lessons, uncertainty about job choices or even those geeky stereotypes about science boffins, it’s been well-documented over the last couple of years that fewer kids than ever are choosing to follow science past the age when it stops becoming a compulsory school subject.
Step forward Sochi Nishimura, the Japanese scientist who is looking to reignite the spark in science for kids. For the last 16 years, he’s pioneered the hilariously wacky Sony Science Show: aimed at Year 1 students, it’s a riotous extravaganza of madcap experiments, slapstick humour and enthusiastic audience participation, with the charismatic Nishimura and his equally eccentric sidekicks centre stage.
When the show arrived for its annual fixture in Dubai last month, playing to schools and the general public, we saw giant smoke rings spin across the Knowledge Village Auditorium, balloon rockets fly through the air, and every kid in the room get a (mild!) shock to demonstrate the wonders of static electricity. The aim? To banish those mental blocks that can make learning science a challenge, and to inspire a life-long love of the subject in his audience members. And judging by the rapturous cheers, excited faces and mad scramble to be picked as a volunteer, Sochi Nishimura’s mission seems to be succeeding. Time Out Kids caught up with him after the show to find out more.
Why do we need someone like you to put the excitement back into science?
You could say science is exactly like sport. If you read a book about swimming but don’t swim, you’re never going to realise how much fun it can be. You have to go out and give it a go first-hand. For science, too, you have to try it for yourself. That’s why in our experiments we use very simple materials, so that the kids in the audience can try it for themselves when they get back home.
What age should kids start learning science?
Starting from Year 1 – this is a great age to get kids interested, when they have that love of learning anything new. Science for children doesn’t need to be over-complicated. It’s more a case of trying something out, and seeing what the result would be for themselves. For grown-ups, finding an answer and understanding it is as easy as reading a book or looking something up online. But for kids, the best way to learn is
to experiment through practical, hands-on experience.
Does parents’ own experience of boring school science lessons mean that they’re not passing any enthusiasm onto their kids?
Many people think that science is very difficult. That’s why using my show I try to teach kids that it’s very simple if you just try. The kids come with their class teachers, and I hope that the teaching staff will see that the way they teach their students can be simplified and be made much more interesting too.
What’s your ultimate ambition with the show?
I want to sow the seeds for kids’ love of science and experiments. Because I’ve been doing the show for such a long time, these days I have kids that I taught at the very beginning, who are now all grown up and have majored in science at university. I’ve had a number of students come back to me many years later and tell me that the reason they followed a career in science is because they were initially inspired by the show. My ultimate dream is that in 40 years’ time, one of the kids from my audience will be awarded the Nobel prize for their scientific achievements.
Want to try your hand at some DIY science experiments over the summer holidays, but missed the science show back in May? Never fear! Log on to www.sony-mea.com/microsite/sonyscienceshow where you’ll find more than 10 downloadable experiments to try for yourself at home, with kid-friendly, step-by-step instructions and videos on how to make an air cannon, miracle soap bubbles, a charcoal battery and flash sherbert, to name but a few. Have fun!