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  • Writer's pictureKen Kaplan

A Legacy of Asking Questions About the World

Updated: May 3

By Ken Kaplan

Image credit: Anna Fantasia

Special to the Enterprise


As a University professor and researcher, the power of education is part of my foundational DNA as it were. My own journey to the University of California, Davis is a direct outcome of my respect and passion for the power of learning through experience. Over the years I have advocated - often breathlessly - for more investment in a system of education that prioritizes experiential learning, a process that emphasizes the value of trial and error in opening the door to curiosity and creating a habit of asking informed questions. Taking a job at UCD was, for me, a commitment to foster curiosity in our students not only around how our shared biology works, but also in questioning our assumptions. This commitment is one of the main reasons I am so thrilled to be associated with the Explorit Science Center, an institution whose very existence is centered on fostering and igniting curiosity.


The mission of Explorit is more important than ever. During my nearly 25 years of teaching biology to students, I have observed that our students are less and less comfortable asking questions motivated by curiosity about the world. The reasons for this are likely to be complicated but it may be in part due to an over-focus on the outcome of assessments (e.g., grades and test scores) accompanied by a consuming anxiety of being "wrong” or judged negatively for asking a naive question. I acknowledge that uncertainty is always associated with discomfort. One salve for this unease is to come to our new experiences favoring curiosity and questions over anxiety. This takes practice. It is exactly this practice that Explorit aims to reinforce in our youth - our mission is "to ignite and foster curiosity about science and nature through inquiry and discovery".


For more than 40 years, the Explorit Science Center has had this mission. Started by a small group of women educators and scientists, including Anne Hance, a biologist at UC Davis, Explorit has been part of our kids' lives for generations. Whether through attending a summer camp, visiting the museum with a school group, having Explorit educators come to the classroom or hosting a family science night, so many of us have a connection with Explorit. The simple idea that hands-on exposure to science is the best way to ignite curiosity lives on with the current staff and leadership of the Explorit Science Center.


It is in this spirit that I am pleased to share with you the inaugural Science Expo on Saturday, May 4th, 2024 starting at 10am at Explorit Science Center (3141 5th St Davis CA 95618). The idea is to bring together groups from our community who share our commitment to exploring the world through hands-on activities. This event is free to the community and we are proud to host groups like UC Davis' Bohart Entomology Museum, the Chemistry club, local high school robotics clubs, and much more!


Explorit's coming events:

• Now is a great time to donate and help Explorit continue to educate and inspire the scientists of tomorrow: https://www.explorit.org/donate

• Explorit is open Fridays from 1-4pm and Saturday and Sundays from 10am-2pm. The current exhibit is “Our WILD World”. Admission is $5 per person, free for Explorit Members and those aged 2 and under.

• Summer Science Camps are back for 2024! Registration is $185 for Members, $210 for Non-Members. More information and registration can be found at https://www.explorit.org/camps.

• May 18-19, African Adventure Safari. Celebrating Endangered Species Day! Courtesy of Kaotic Mythicals, explore specimens representing over 30 species of predator and prey that call Africa home. Included with general $5 Admission to Explorit, 10am-2pm each day.

• A Membership to Explorit grants the recipient free visits to Explorit’s regular public hours, discounts on events, summer camps, and gives you ASTC benefits to visit other museums throughout the world. To purchase or for more information visit https://www.explorit.org/membership.


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