Nurturing Their Curiosity: Awesome Kid Solves Dad's Research Problem With D&D

Beholder Monster from D&D
UBC prof Alan Kingstone studies and teaches Cognitive Science. He has published research on perception, social attention and visual cues. (Nerd alert!) This year, he was working on a study of gaze, specifically trying to determine if people are drawn to the eyes of a subject or the center of the face in general. Pretty kewl stuff.

He hit a bit of a road block though, since there aren't many living organisms whose eyes are positioned away from the middle of the head and yet clearly visible (you could use a slug or snail for this, but their eyes aren't exactly obvious to begin with). No, Mr. Kingstone needed something a bit more humanoid.

Enter his 12 year old son. Julian, it would seem, is an avid Dungeons and Dragons player. So it was only logical to him to propose that his Dad use the D&D Monster Manual to come up with images that would suit the experiment. Turns out his no-brainer was genius to his Dad, who then offered to make Julian part of the project. That kid got to participate in the research and even got the lead credit on the paper, entitled: Monsters are people too.

Kudos to Mr. Kingstone for embracing Julian's creativity and imagination. What an amazing experience for a kid who hasn't even hit his teens yet.

Making Science More Relevant

Kids have such a unique perspective on the world and given the opportunity they can often find solutions when we adults are too biased in our thinking. There should be more mentoring opportunities to enable kids with a keen interest in science to contribute to research and learn about the scientific process. Imagine capturing a child's imagination early on by sending them on field trips to research labs, learning programming from local developers, getting them hands-on with science & tech, and giving them an chance to explore concepts in real life as part of their curriculum, instead of static textbook teaching.

In Ottawa, schools have access to Scientists in School and parents can reinforce science through events like Science FunFest. But these opportunities are only once or twice a school year. It would be amazing if the curriculum included an emphasis on demonstrating the applicability of what they are learning to the real world; if, for every topic, there was a professional or researcher who came in to show them the value of what they just learned and helped them find the relevance to their own lives.

Meantime, I guess that's our job as parents: to make school more relevant to our kids and maintain their interest in what they are learning. Sometimes it may seem like a daunting task, but I believe that if we lose their interest in learning, we lose them entirely. If we can foster their curious nature, then maybe there will be more Julian's contributing to the advancement of science in new and unusual ways.

Where Do You Start?

All it takes is an Internet connection and a search engine (or a trip to the library) to find real-life examples related to the subjects they are studying in school. (And of course, a little one-on-one time with the kiddos but who doesn't want a bit of that?! ;)