WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Most educators promote "hands-on"
science learning -- instead of traditional rote memorization -- as the best
way to teach and excite youngsters about science. Drawing on the world
around them, children handle and manipulate the objects they study --
plants, rocks, insects, water, magnetic fields. And students learn by using
scientific instruments, measurement and observation devices like rulers,
microscopes, telescopes, test tubes, and cameras.
But how do children experience activities-based learning about
nanotechnology -- a world of atoms and molecules that's too small to see
with the naked eye and that requires sophisticated electron or scanning
Bethany Maynard, a 6th grader at a Fairfax County, Virginia elementary
school, shows how young people can observe, test and investigate
nanotechnology -- sharpening their analytical skills and becoming active
science learners -- at home or in a classroom without any expensive
equipment. All that's needed is some ketchup, mustard and a tie.
Bethany's curiosity was sparked by a new silk tie bought by her father
at Brooks Brothers(R) that claims to be treated with Nano-Tex (TM) fabric
protection to repel liquids and stains. Examining the tie, she began to ask
critical questions: What is nanotechnology? How does it protect clothing
from stains? Does nanotechnology have other potential uses, particularly to
help improve or safeguard the environment? Are there risks?
She experimented in her family kitchen, slathering the tie with
ketchup, mustard and coffee to test its stain resistant properties. And she
posed basic questions about nanotechnology to her father, Andrew Maynard,
chief science advisor at the Wilson Center's Project on Emerging
Nanotechnologies. She also interviewed one of the country's leading experts
on "green" nanotechnology, Barbara Karn, who works at the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency and who currently is a visiting scientist
at the Project. In addition, Bethany turned to the Internet to find more
information about nanotechnology online.
Her Internet search included the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies'
online inventory of almost 300 manufacturer-identified nanotechnology
consumer products currently being sold in department and hardware stores,
pharmacies, and sporting goods catalogues. The inventory includes the
Brooks Brothers(R) tie she tested in her kitchen "laboratory":
Using her family's video camera and recruiting her younger brother,
Alex, as cameraman, Bethany produced a short video (8:25 minutes) that
reports her main observations, findings and conclusions. The video is
available online at the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies website:
"Young people's ability to compete successfully in a 21st century
global economy and to secure exciting, self-fulfilling careers is highly
dependent on their scientific and mathematical literacy -- particularly
their understanding of an emerging area like nanotechnology," according to
Julia A. Moore, deputy director of the Project on Emerging
Nanotechnologies. "If nanotechnology results in the new industrial
revolution that many foresee, then it is vital for children like Bethany
and others to have the opportunity -- in schools, science museums, or
supervised at home -- to discover, experiment, ask questions and draw
conclusions about nanotechnology using a hands-on learning approach."
Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, see, manipulate and
manufacture things usually between 1 and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one
billionth of a meter; a human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers wide. The
National Science Foundation predicts that the world market for goods and
services using nanotechnologies will grow to $1 trillion and employ 2
million people by 2015. The U.S. invests approximately $3 billion annually
in nanotechnology research and development, which accounts for
approximately one-third of the total public and private sector investments
The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies is an initiative launched by
the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and The Pew Charitable
Trusts in 2005. It is dedicated to helping business, government and the
public anticipate and manage possible health and environmental implications
Contact: Sharon McCarter
Phone: (202) 691-4016
SOURCE Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars