Without thinking much about it, we create models when we plan, explain, or try to understand something difficult. For example, we draw a sketch of a room we want to furnish or a diagram of a workplace reorganization. You can benefit more from models if you become aware of why they help us. And if you talk to your child about models, they gain an important tool for life.
I have pondered a lot about models through my work at Scientist Factory because in the field of natural sciences, they are abundant. They are needed to illustrate what we cannot perceive, such as when we create a mini-solar system or press sheets of cardboard together to study how tectonic plates move. Other models help us understand things that are too small to see, like imitations of atoms and molecules. We also have models that demonstrate physical phenomena. We illustrate sound and light waves by creating vibrations in a rope. And in an experiment where we mix liquid from one tube to another, we use it to illustrate how infections spread when one of the tubes contains a base that we can later trace using pH paper.
Models in natural science, an inseparable connection.
Models help us understand natural science, and that’s why I almost always look for models when I’m trying to convey a topic. At the same time, I have become aware of the use of models in other contexts and find them everywhere. All fields, from economics and climate research to language and history, use models, and they come in many different forms. Some are theoretical and can be drawn as figures. Others are data simulations of reality or physical imitations of something. They simply appear everywhere where we as humans develop, work, and learn something. Nevertheless, I think there is little attention to the significance they have.
How models help us simplify the complex.
I believe the most important reason we create models is related to how the brain functions. It constantly receives millions of sensory impressions, but consciousness can only handle a few impressions at a time. So when we try to understand something that is difficult and complex, we must simplify. That’s when models come into play. They make it easier to understand. Often, they also activate many senses, which enhances learning. Take, for example, the seasons. Why do we have fewer hours of sunlight in winter and more in summer? It’s easy to understand if we create a model that shows how the axis through the Earth from north to south is slightly tilted relative to the sun, but it’s difficult to imagine just by reading text.
Limitations of models.
At the same time, it’s important to know that models have limitations. They never tell the whole truth. Therefore, it’s important to ask what the models help us understand and what they don’t show. That’s why I believe all children should become aware of what models are and how we use them. This way, they gain a new tool when they need to understand something complicated. They can create their own simplified models. At the same time, they know that models don’t tell the whole truth.
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