I may have been deprived as a child. I didn’t have kinetic sculptures to teach me about science. I didn’t have wind tunnels and archaeological digs. I grew up in a time when science was serious and dangerous and even a little angry. Science wasn’t meant to be fun. It was meant to be intimidating. And my, how it delivered on that promise!
I played through eighth- and ninth-grade science, dressing up the life-sized classroom skeleton and drawing diagrams of Brownian Motion in my notebooks. (You guessed it. The pictures were of brownies running away.)
Later, I discovered that there may have been a reason that I didn’t take STEM more seriously. In an education course I took in college, I learned that girls’ brains develop differently than boys’ do – the right brain being dominant earlier in life, while the opposite is true for boys. Historically, this led educators to believe that women weren’t meant to be scientists. When I learned this, I felt vindicated. I was free to pursue my right-brain impulses! I had permission to ignore science!
And you have permission to judge me for that. Older Janet judges Younger Janet all the time. Especially when I consider the company I am lucky enough to keep now: professors, researchers, and doctors who happen to be women. Not only are they making a difference in the world. They are communicating what they know to the right-brained without prejudice, including little girls.
Only now is my left brain beginning to question the world around me, way too late in life for me to do anything about it. But, if the point of learning is not to advance, but to understand, that’s still something, isn’t it?
So back to the St. Louis Science Center, the largest part of which was erected off of Highway 40 (as it was then called) in 1991. We had just returned to the St. Louis area after a prolonged hiatus, with two little kids in tow. And the science center became one of our favorite places to play.
At the time, I hadn’t learned too much about science, but I’d learned a lot about kids. One thing I’d learned was that play was just another word for learning. And our kids played hard. In many ways, they were like the balls of the Energizer Ball Machine racing above their heads – bright, beautiful illustrations of energy in motion. It took only the slightest nudge and they were off and running – learning, playing, discovering the power within.
The St. Louis Science Center is the April feature in my 2022 A YEAR IN THE CITY calendar. It is also available as a limited edition archival print or litho print. For more information, see ayearinthecity.com.