Feature: Youth, Science And Technology

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For some, the realm of science and technology may be regarded as remote, but necessary.?? Technical devices and accessibility have become so intertwined in everyday life, that while we may not know exactly how our cell phones work or how Facebook functions, we cannot imagine life without them.

However, the disciplines of science and technology go beyond gadgets and the internet and run the gamut of everyday processes – from how our food is grown to how utilities find their way into our homes.?? In essence, they are intrinsically tied to our existence, advancement and improvement in our way of life.

For this reason, the National Council for Science and Technology (NCST) – which is concerned with the advancement and popularisation of science and technology in Barbados – has continued to increase awareness about science and technology.?? In addition, the organisation has recognised that Barbados’ destiny is intertwined, not only with science and technology, but with the potential of this island’s youth to embrace them.

Senior Technical Officer at the NCST, Arlene Weekes, explained that to achieve this, it was critical for parents to allow their children to walk the path of innovation. She noted that a child’s attempts to learn more about the world may be interpreted by adults as simply making a mess or ???mashing up’ something; but instead, parents and guardians should realise that science and technology could lead to viable career opportunities, national development and an avenue for young people to learn more about themselves and the world around them.

"I know that children learn by inquiry and experimentation…If you look at the first stages in a child’s life, that’s how the child explores…Then after a while, we keep telling them ???no, you can’t do that’; so how can they develop…when they’re stifled?

"I find that by the time children get to secondary school, they no longer have an interest [in science].?? They’ve lost a lot of the curiosity that they would have had as children…by the time you reach 11 and 12, you’ve been beaten down so much that you no longer want to take that chance to try this or try that.?? You’ve given up already," she lamented. ????????????????????

Ms. Weekes suggested that a child’s capabilities could only be realised if it received encouragement from its parents.??

"As long as we allow our children to experiment with the world around them, they will always have the potential to come up with novel ideas. The fact that [Albert] Einstein developed the theory of relativity did not just come out of the blue. His parents encouraged him, he was experimenting from an early age – maybe that’s what we need to do with our children in order to develop their creative talents," she suggested.

Acknowledging that it was essential to provide young people with the right skills to take Barbados forward, the Senior Technical Officer discussed some of the NCST’s programmes, which seek to foster an interest in science.??

"There are a number of projects that are geared towards the youth and their development.?? We have …the National Science and Technology Exhibition (SciTech), we have the School’s Science Lecture Series and Debating Competition, where secondary and tertiary students come together and debate on scientific topics.

We have a summer camp, and that has been running now for a number of years," she said.??

According to Ms. Weekes, the camp, which caters to students ages six to 11, was now quite popular among parents, camp counsellors and students alike.?? She revealed that the activities aimed to show that science was fun, "…to demystify science and technology. There’s this notion that science is so difficult and it’s beyond the capacity of a lot of persons in society, but it is not…," she assured.

The organisation will soon launch a programme to introduce science and technology clubs in primary schools, the NCST officer disclosed, adding that the Council recognised the need to introduce the science and technology theme at an early age, with plans for the clubs to cater to students as young as four years old.

Ms. Weekes said she believed the clubs would be successful, as Barbados’ youth "…have great potential.?? We have some very bright and intelligent young people out there.?? They just need the right environment where they can grow.?? And, we here at the NCST are trying to create that environment…"

As the country continued to strive to move from developing to developed status, the Senior Technical Officer said it would be necessary to adopt "some of the positive things [developed countries] have done".?? She observed that while bringing science and technology into focus would be central to this process, "everybody does not have to be a scientist… But, if you are educated or you have enough knowledge or understanding about the world around you, you can make better choices and decisions for you and your family.
"Society – from the young to the old – needed to grasp the value of science and technology, Ms. Weekes said, not only for the sake of progress, but also for the creation of a conscious society which understood that "science is not aloof".

She further stated: "The importance of science and technology cannot be [understated]…it impacts on every aspect of our lives, from the food we eat, clothes we wear, transportation, medicine, communication – everything is impacted in some way by science and technology. Advancements in science and technology improve the quality of life we lead," she stressed.

nekaelia.hutchinson@barbados.gov.bb

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