Candles, Faraday, and Teaching

I’m giving a guest lecture to a STEM class in about two weeks. I plan to talk about my research into citizen science. One of the questions I want to get the students thinking about is what makes someone into a scientist. Is it education, knowledge, skill, social influence, professional certification, or something else? But starting with one question always leads to another.

So my mind began to wander back to when I was a volunteer at the Science Museum of Minnestoa in the 1990s. I worked in the Experiment Gallery doing various demonstrations about physical phenomenon. One of my favorite activities was inspired by Micahel Faraday’s famous lectures on the ‘Chemical History of the Candle’.

Thinking about the boundary between scientist and non-scientist raises issues about education and learning. Do we learn more or less in an informal setting? How important is naive exploration and experimentation?

I searched on YouTube for some video clips about Faraday’s candle and found a video by Ian Russell doing an updated version Faraday’s lecture with some comments about learning science and the power of exploration.


Todd Suomela
Associate Director for Digital Pedagogy & Scholarship Department

My interests include digital scholarship, citizen science, leadership, and communications.