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The Big Story of 1952
Sometime in the 1980’s my school brought in a staff development video (remember videos?) that was titled “What you are Now is What You Were When”. The gist of the video was that the way we view the world is shaped by the events that impacted us when we were growing up. It must have impacted me quite a bit because I still remember it as one of those great “ah ha” moments. This memory got me thinking about how big science stories would differ from generation to generation. Here is another opportunity to get families thinking science around the dinner table.
So, what were the main science stories you remember from your life? I do remember the moon landing in 1962. I mention this to my students and I am met with blank stares. They have seen through the magic of special effects landings on Mars and asteroids. Of course those are just movies, but it is important to help kids differentiate between real and fiction.
What would my students view as the most important or the most memorable science stories of their young lives. Certainly the oil spill in the Gulf will have the same impact as the Exxon Valdez in 1989. I wonder what other stories they will pick as the top science news. More importantly I wonder what they will find out when they ask their parents the same questions. That leads me to a great timeline idea.
Most timelines have static events and dates and often a cut and paste photo of some of the events from magazines or the web. I think a photo of the folks from that generation above the timeline and the events below would be nice. Most of the parents of my high school kids are in their late 30’s and early 40’s. That would have put most of them in school in the 70’s and 80’s. Many may think about Chernobyl (1986) or perhaps the Challenger Disaster (1986). Older brothers or sisters in college may list the Asian Tsunami (2004) or when Pluto was kicked out of the planet club (2006). Grandparents may talk about the discovery of the double helix (1953), the moon landing (1962).
Most news stories are not just science. There are lots of headlines from different years or decades. A search of those might provide some dates. One provides the headlines from the exact date of birth you type into the applet.
A quick search of 1965 shows that satellites were in the news a lot. I do remember Sputnik (1957) and the stir that it created in education. So, under my photo I would put some information about the first use of satellites for broadcasting some TV shows.
I did ask my 84 year old neighbor what he remembers. He said that the war was still the major news but in 1936 he read about this amazing engineering feat called Hoover Dam. Further discussions led to some memories of new asteroids being discovered, the first radioactive element was in the news a lot. He did point out that technology consisted of telephones and telegraph. There are lots of resources online for different decades to help jog the memory of older family members or neighbors.
It is interesting to look at how much science advances in a decade. Most of my students are amazed when I tell them that they may play a part in the next big science story. That leads to a discussion of careers and can be so much more powerful when coupled with the timeline idea.
So. If you wander into my room this fall you will see both online on my web site and physically up on the wall a timeline that will take a whole village of folks to put together. My students may find out that Grandma knows more about science and discovery than they thought.