Sauna and alcohol kill the coronavirus! This was such a splendid piece of news at the beginning of the first wave of the coronavirus. As Finns, we were, of course, already familiar with these aids. The news item was not incorrect as such, but its interpretations might go badly wrong. We are living in a world where information keeps bursting out from various media channels. Even at present, these media keep providing news on the Covid-19 pandemic and some elements of this information flow are dangerously incorrect.
Science and technology are present in our daily life. In addition, we have recently seen how political decision-making draws on science. Indeed, it is important to understand how scientific knowledge is constructed, and distinguish between scientific and everyday knowledge, and especially tell it apart from fake news and disinformation.
Science education aims to increase people’s understanding of science and the construction of knowledge as well as to promote scientific literacy and responsible citizenship. We can use science communication to increase science-related knowledge among adults, in particular. Popularised non-fiction books, exhibitions, science events, and science blogs are excellent ways to improve adults’ scientific knowledge.
Children and youth receive science education at school, but in addition to this, there are, for instance, various workshops, camps and lectures available to them. Along with these, children and adolescents can learn, among other things, cognitive skills and problem-solving while better understanding the construction of knowledge and the scientific process. These skills help them manage better in our present society. Science education can also generate an interest in university studies, and increase positive attitudes towards science in society.
According to the aims proposed by a Ministry of Education and Culture committee for 2020, Finland was to be ranked as a top country in science education. In this respect, science museums and science centres have strong traditions, but universities have also noted the importance of science education.
At the University of Jyväskylä, Researchers’ Night events have opened research to the public, which has shown great interest in it. The Jyväskylä University Museum of the Open Science Centre, JYU Summer University, the LUMA Centre, and numerous projects of individual researchers and research teams annually provide science education for thousands of children and youth. The JYUnior activities coordinated by the Summer University and Jyväskylä University Museum involve several faculties and departments.
The Open Science Centre will be located in in the Library Building, which is currently undergoing renovation. The new facilities will help convey topical information through exhibitions, panel discussions and other science events. At the University of Jyväskylä, science education is seen as part of societal interaction, which is one of the universities’ basic missions.
Back to sauna and alcohol
As rational people, we think we make many of our decisions based solely on facts. Despite this, emotions are always involved in decision-making – and that is all right. When the news concerns our own health or survival, we tend to react quickly and emotionally. Our fast-moving minds take in the information without questioning or analysing it. So just to be on the safe side, we buy some alcohol and go to sauna more frequently.
Science-related knowledge and scientific literacy provide essential tools for surviving in the news jungle and for responsible citizenship. They also teach us to understand our own actions, to review them critically, and to take care of our rights. This is why science education is important.
Jonna Timonen, PhD. The writer works as a coordinator at the Jyväskylä University Museum in the Open Science Centre.
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