SPRINGFIELD, Ohio Mark Ellison, assistant professor of chemistry at Wittenberg University, normally conducts scientific experiments in the lab as students watch, participate and learn, but recently he challenged a group of honors students to develop scientific programs they would enjoy watching on TV. Because their ideas were so good, they earned the attention of a network representative working to bring the Cable Science Network (CSN) to viewers in the near future.
Ellison logged on to CSN’s Web site and submitted the two best ideas from the nine students taking “Scientific Progress and Public Policy” last semester. Hours later, he received a call from a Cheryl Pellerin, a staff member with CSNTV.
“She said she thought the ideas were good enough to be considered for the initial programming,” Ellison said.
One idea suggests a program name certain to get attention, “Total Intellectual Carnage.” Wittenberg student Kevin McAninch, a sophomore from Canal Winchester, Ohio, and his group explained in the proposal, “This implies that issues, such as stem cell research and global warming be confronted without mercy, and that all aspects be examined in a week-long mini-series fashion so viewers can reach an educated conclusion.” The last day of the series would include a debate worthy of the series name, where a panel of experts seeks to reach a conclusion.
Ellison split the students, which included about 50 percent science to non-science majors, into two groups for the assignment. “I was impressed with the depth and the quality of their workable ideas,” Ellison said. “We all had fun with it, but a great deal of critical thinking and reasoning went into the submissions, which I think the producers picked up on, and that’s why they think the ideas might make good programming on an all-scientific network.”
“The Real Science World,” a television program with do-it-yourself experiments and interviews with scientists working in the industry, was the winning suggestion of the second group of students. They pitched a theme involving an episode focusing on the science of soda geared toward kids pre-teen through high school.
After such a positive response from CSN, Ellison enlisted the support of the entire campus with an invitation to visit the network Web site, www.csntv.org and fill out the short survey, which will be used to show cable companies that there is interest for such a channel. He encourages anyone with an interest in scientific programming to visit the site.
“If you’re tiring of Reality TV, or if you’ve ever wondered why there is a travel network, multiple sports networks, a food network but no science TV, here is your chance to make high-quality scientific programming the next Reality TV,” he said.
“As educators, we know the importance of having a scientifically literate society, and a channel such as CSN can help us achieve that goal. If CSN becomes a reality, a bonus could be that we might see a show that was inspired by Wittenberg students!”
For Ellison, the concept of a science network is exciting. He feels many people shun science because they think it will be too difficult, “The truth is, to be a scientist, is simply to be curious about the world around you.”
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