Monday, 8 September 2014

What can schools learn from the MythBuster?

Last weekend saw the last weekend of the MythBuster's 'Behind the Myths Tour' with two shows at Auckland's Vector Arena. Our family have been MythBusters fans for many year, and when my 11y old told me he had seen their show advertised, we booked tickets the next day. If you have not heard about them before, please check out the Wikipedia article on them here

Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman are special effects experts, not trained scientists. They test 'myths' from movies and the internet, or common beliefs, using scientific methods. There are plenty of 'things that go boom' but there is much more to their success than merely blowing stuff up.

Masters 9 and 11 before the show;
do you see in the background
"Failure is always an option"???
What makes the show so special in my eyes is that the MythBusters are inherently curious. They are wondering about the myths, wondering how they can prove these are 'confirmed', 'plausible' or 'busted, and if the latter, they wonder how they can achieve a similar result to the myth with different means. As Adam Savage said, rather than looking for 'Eureka", they are always looking for results that make them say 'Huh! That's funny!' (in the sense of unusual). At the same time, they are not afraid of failure, in fact there are plenty of failed attempts in every episode, sometimes even a whole myth revisited in another episode. Throw in scientific explanations and you get a show that has my hermit-apprentice 14y old get up well before 9am on a Saturday morning to spend 4h (one way) in the car to get to this show.

Jamie Hyneman answering questions
During the show both Jamie and Adam answered questions about their favourite myths. Both stated that their favourites were not myths involving 'blowing stuff up', they were episodes where they had to think hard and very creatively to solve a problem, e.g. "Lead Balloon" and "Penny Drop".

Amongst jokes and fun there were a number of profound statements; Adam Savage explained at the beginning that:
and towards the end he answered his own question about superpowers:

Vector Arena looked full to me (but I wouldn't call me an expert on such things), lots of young and older adults and parents with children. At $280 for the five of us in the less expensive section it wasn't cheap. Inherently it was all about science, not the biggest drawcard for some people. So what made it so attractive? What can schools learn from the MythBusters?
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  • The MythBusters are engaging and have fun doing what they are doing.
  • They present the topic in a way that makes us wonder with them - cultivating their and our curiosity.
  • Their myths are 'real life' or from movies - which makes them almost real for many people. Rather than explaining the scientific method, they recreate myths and let us take part in it - which very much reminds me of Dan Meyer's approach to real life maths.

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Ask yourself:
  • Do I have fun doing what I am doing, and do I show this?
  • Do I cultivate my own and my learner's curiosity?
  • Does the content have a real life connection, and do I and my learners take actively part in the resolving of the problem?

I can honestly answer yes and yes to the first two questions for me for pretty much all I do (ask me again on a different day when I have spent all day completing forms lol). I think I can work more on the real-life connection and the actively resolving of problems, I'll give this some serious thought how I can make this happen - do you have any suggestions for me? And what about you?

Note: I would like to acknowledge the three other long serving MythBusters, Kari Byron, Grant Imahara and Tori Belleci, it has been announced in August that they are leaving the show. 

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