Last Sunday the Badger bumped into neighbours out for a walk with their two young daughters. They are both teachers and their daughters are just 8 and 6 years old. The eldest was clutching a pink tablet, not quite the size of an iPad. We chatted for some minutes, and the 8-year old – obviously feeling a bit left out – thrust her tablet into the Badger’s hands and said ‘look what I’ve got’. The Badger asked what she used it for, and she said mainly for drawing pictures and playing games. Her mother teaches humanity subjects at school, so the Badger casually commented to her parents that their daughter was already on track for a career in the arts rather than science and engineering. The conversation then took an unexpected turn.
The little girl asked the Badger what was best; arts or science and engineering? The Badger was momentarily surprised, but answered saying that he’d trained in science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) subjects, and had used that training in the IT world to successfully do many varied technical and non-technical things. The Badger illustrated – in child-friendly terms – by mentioning satellites, navigation, space travel, mobile phones and iPads. She was also told that it was scientists and engineers that made the apps on her tablet and, indeed, made the modern world work! The Badger pointed out that scientists and engineers were very creative and often drew pictures on their tablets too!
The little girl absorbed this for a moment, looked quizzically at her mother and asked her if she should be an artist, or a scientist or engineer when she grew up. Her mother just grinned and turned the question back on her daughter. What did she want to be? None of us were prepared for the answer. With a serious expression she quickly said she wanted to be a scientist or an engineer. Her mother asked why? Her daughter looked sheepish, and giggled. She just said because that way she could learn to control Santa Clause’s delivery of presents around the world at Christmas, and divert all the presents to herself! Her mother was horrified.
After the neighbours resumed their walk, the Badger was left with just two thoughts. The first was that young children like hearing about the role of science and engineering in the modern world. The second was that this little girl will go far in life! Just imagine how she’ll be thinking when she’s 18 years old rather than 8…