What is Primary Science Education?

Primary Science Education

The term primary is used here in a dual sense. It means early in the sense of education addressed to children when they build their primary understanding of the world. It also refers to the understanding of concepts of science that may rightly be called primary, i.e., the concepts that form the roots of scientific thought. These elements of understanding are important not only for children but for everyone, at any age, for a meaningful approach to reality.

In recent years, linguistics has taught us that much of human language is figurative rather than literal. Cognitive science tells us that figures of speech are figures of thought of an embodied mind. Our mind is metaphoric or literary (narrative)—it projects small stories experienced by our bodies onto the larger stories of life. Humans are storytelling (and story understanding) animals.

Even if we are hard pressed to see or believe it at times, scientific theories are figurative as well. What we have learned in linguistics and cognitive science is also true of natural science: our theories of nature are narrative at their core. If we accept this, science, science teaching/learning, and science communication appear in a new light. In particular, we can explain what we mean by good language, clear images, and deep understanding in our science stories.

We need to know the figurative structures that underlie our study of nature and machines if we want to be effective educators or communicators. Fortunately, at least in macroscopic science, these figures are taken from everyday life and are understood by all humans. Building on these, we can create stories of nature and machines that will help us understand the world around us.