You Can Do *Anything* You Want?

I’m involved in a program where scientists go to elementary schools to teach science to the kids. It’s super fun to see how engaged the students get in the experiments, to see them thinking critically and learning that science is fun.  Last week, I went to meet the classes I’m going to be working with this year – grades 3 and 4.  I told them a little bit about my background as a scientist and, after wowing them with the fact that I went to school until I was in grade 23, we got to talking about what university is like. I told them that unlike elementary school, where you have classes in all the different subjects – science and math and English and art and gym and music and history, etc. – when you get to university, you start to specialize, you decide what you like and then you take most of your courses just in that area.  If you decide you like science, then you can specialize in science and take mostly science classes. If you decide you like art, you can specialize in that.  And this one kid’s eyes just go so big and the expression on his faced showed that he’d just had the most amazing revelation.  “You mean you can do *anything* you want?  You get to pick *anything*?”  I think it was the first time he’d ever heard this! “That’s right,” I said,”You can decide to do whatever you want!”

And then today I was talking to one of the students in the university course that I’m teaching, answering some last minute question about tomorrow’s final exam, my student said that even though this is her last term of university, she was really excited by research methods (which is not something you hear very often, by the way. Research methods tends to be something that many students feel they just have to suffer through, something that they won’t ever engage in again).  “It’s really exciting,” she said, “with research, you really can do anything you want!”

And isn’t that a nice thought?  Whether you are a grade 3 student looking to your life ahead or a fourth year university student whose eyes are being opened to the possibilities of research or [insert your own life here] – you can do *anything* you want!

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