Yesterday, Betsy and I stopped at Meijer (local department store) to pick up a few things. On a whim, I decided to buy a science project kit. Nothing particular in mind, just something fun I could build – a chemistry experiment, levitating magnets, grow-your-own crystals, whatever. I hadn’t done anything science-y in a while, and it seemed like a cool way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
We headed to the toys section and started browsing. Meijer has a dizzying selection of toys: Legos, Barbies, action figures, puzzles, Nerf guns, aisle after aisle of everything you could imagine.
Science? Not so much. I think they had a Glow-in-the-Dark Squishy Science model of human anatomy, but that was about it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against toys, and I’m not one of those people who insists on turning every kid’s playtime into a lesson. But when you’ve got hundreds of square feet devoted to toys, and nothing you can meaningfully learn from? Well, in Betsy’s words, that’s “kind of depressing.”
Undeterred, we moved on to Walmart. Same deal. Thousands of toys, nothing educational. Well, that’s not quite true – they did have a few things. But it was all for babies. Learn your colors and numbers, that kind of stuff.
The idea seems to be that learning is what you do when you’re very young, before you’re sophisticated enough for officially licensed action figures.
In fact, the book section of these stores is much the same way. Lots of romance novels, lots of spirituality and “self-help” and shallow, feel-good “Christian” books. A solid dose of inflammatory political nonsense. A handful of more literary offerings, generally tie-ins with whatever movie they’re promoting this week. But mostly entertainment.
Again, I have nothing against entertainment or movie tie-ins or romance novels. But when you have a whole section showcasing mankind’s greatest invention – the written word – and almost nothing that will open your mind? Kind of a missed opportunity, wouldn’t you say?
So we went home and mixed vinegar and baking soda and green food dye to make a St. Patrick’s Day volcano in the sink. Not that we learned any Deep Science Knowledge from that either, I suppose, but not too bad for a lazy weekend.
Oddly enough, you know the one store in town that does have a section for science experiments? Hobby Lobby. Yeah. Too bad they’re not open on Sundays. But I know where I’m headed after work today!