Wisdom begins in wonder’
The above quote comes from a certain ancient Athenian (born circa 470 BC in Greece, so a few years ago) who went by the name of Socrates. Possibly ye old days equivalent of today’s go to man, seeker of wisdom through knowledge, Professor Brian Cox, but without the history in pop music.
Socrates did quite a few important things in his time that we’ll not go into here, but he is renowned as one of the three great philosophers alongside Palto and Aristotle. Plato (a student of Socrates), again amongst a great many things invented the concept of the Academy, a place for learning, developing and sharing knowledge, while Aristotle (a student of Plato) through his many writings and views effectively went on to change how we all think, forever more.
I learned all this in school studying Classical Studies (Ancient Greek and Roman history), which at the time some may have thought what use is that, whereas today, there’s not really a day when I don’t think about something I learned in those classes. To keep it nice and grounded, I’m also going to throw in the 80s TV series ‘MacGyver’, a show that showed the fictional escapades and missions of a scientist who used his knowledge and meagre resources to solve any and all problems. There’s not many days when I don’t think of MacGyver too, in that any time I face a problem, ‘what would MacGyver do’ pops into my head, accepting the mission to find a solution.
All this background leads nicely to myself and Flush’s love of knowledge, wisdom, discovery, creativity, aspiration, development and most importantly joy, especially in the form of finding and learning new things. So it’s always a rush of pleasure when similar mind sets cross our quest path, none more so than a recent new children’s publication called Science+Nature.
Produced by Dennis, it’s a monthly magazine aimed for the 12-14 year olds (though any age can learn from it) that has the strap line ‘Making sense of the Universe’, and my it REALLY does.
Created by the multiple award winning team behind the journalistically STUNNING The Week Junior (covering current affairs and science for 8 – 14 year olds) who have seen a 29.1% sales growth in the past year, the future looks very exciting for intelligence, and how the youth of today will shape the world, after the current incompetent adults are gone.
Where as The Week Junior focuses on the actual facts of the day, presenting startlingly concise, informed, unbiased news in a clear and respectful to the reader way, Science+Nature is able to rocket blast into the pure excitement of discovery, learning and sharing knowledge. It’s beautifully designed, vibrant, colourful, fantastic photography, mind blowing facts, genuine WOW moments and all written with a clarity, vitality and entertaining manner that should be the staple for how publications should treat their readership, with profound respect.
There’s a ‘serious’ sense of play too, which as any parent or teacher will know, is the most receptive time for actual learning in developing minds. But it’s not just children or young adults, we all learn things more successfully when there’s that element involved. There are various channels such as The Lab that teach basically anyone how to do various activities (issue two is Baking bread, making paper pumpkins) which nurture the beginnings of the Maker community which I’m a huge fan off. There’s Heroes of Science, which I hope is self explanatory, Engineering and a vast amount of brain caressing stories and nuggets of information on every single page. It’s seriously impressive stuff to say the least.
To get a bit of a background to this great new adventure, Flush caught up with award winning writer and editor of Science+Nature Dan Green.
What was the eureka moment for the beginnings of Science+Nature? As with the best of things, it seems such an obvious product that you didn’t realise was missing until you have it in front of you.
It couldn’t have been more obvious. Children who love reading The Week Junior consistently reported that the science & technology and animals & nature pages were their favourite parts of the weekly magazine. We decided to give the kids even more of the good stuff!
Give us a bit of an insight into your background and how you got to shape one of the most exciting (for any age) publications in recent years. And who have been your early influences on getting you to this point.
I’ve been working in science communication for the best part of 20 years. I have edited tons of books for both adults and kids, and developed and edited titles like The Horrible Science magazine.
For the last ten years I’ve been working as a freelance author, writing books and magazines mainly about science for children. Books that I’m particularly proud of include Rebel Science (https://amzn.to/2Co7rMi) and the Basher Science series (https://bit.ly/2RVcObb) , which have sold over 3 million copies worldwide.
One of the very clear aspects about Science+Nature is just how fun it is. The beautiful design, exciting words, the incredible pictures. How do you maintain this?
I’m glad you say that. We have loads of fun putting the mag together and I think it shines through. It’s a collaborative thing. We have an amazing team of talented people. As well as good ideas, magazines need great writers and super designers and picture researchers. Our designers work closely with editorial, and are given loads of freedom to flex their muscles.
Much is spoken about the great deal of negativity and Fake News that permeates modern press, in contrast, S+N is like a beacon of excitement, facts and possibility of what the future holds in addressing issues that affect all of mankind.
The world can sometimes seem intimidating to children. It’s our job to dispel rumours, myths and poor-quality information that make it seem appear scary.
It’s a tired old cliché, but knowledge really is power. If you understand the things that you see happening around you, you have the power to influence and change them. Hopefully, we’re giving kids the tools they need to deal with issues intelligently.
The tone of the magazine is highly respectful, never talking down to the reader, effectively becoming a great adventure that you and your team are going on, and have thoughtfully invited everyone else along. It’s inspiring that you are nurturing future scientists, botanists, engineers etc are inherently globally conscious.
I am really anti that old-school, top-down, boring, kids-should-be-seen-and-not-heard attitude. Life is a learning journey and I don’t see why that should stop at school. I learn something new with every magazine we put out. Like you say, it’s about keeping that sense of curiosity and wonder about the world that we all have when we were younger. Isn’t everything more fun when we’re finding out new stuff?
We don’t shy away from complex topics as diverse as the psychology of happiness, robots and the way AI will affect our lives, climate change, forensics and DNA, malaria eradication, as well as what animals fart… and that wolverine frog (shudder!) Science is deeply embedded in our lives and it’s interesting when you make those connections clear.
What has the response been to the magazine so far?
Overwhelmingly positive – thank goodness! We’ve had very striking covers on our first two issues and it’s gone down well on the newstand. Obviously, Science+Nature has that pick-me-up appeal. I hope that more schools will discover it and order a copy of Science+Nature for their libraries.
Given an unlimited budget (which I hope you receive very soon), how would you like to see S+N expand? The standard of journalism is so high in the publication, that it could become a global brand, resetting and becoming the standard for edutainment.
Unlimited budgets? That’s crazy talk! I do feel that we have created something unique here, and of exceedingly high quality, so we could in time become to go-to publication. I think we could also look to expand into video and podcast offerings. Right now, as the footballers always say, I’m focussing on the next game, er… issue.
Given the sheer amount of amazing facts and bits of information in any given issue, what was the greatest thing you discovered whilst making Issue 2?
Did you know that a Falcon Heavy launch sets of a roll of sonic booms that sound like kettle drums? I’d love to experience that. Or that snapdragon seedpods look like mini skulls? Spooky!
All knowledge is good, in that it will always cross pollinate and influence enhance seemingly unrelated sectors, but do you have a favourite section of S+N, and why?
Some of the simplest ideas work best. What in the World? is just a single image, but it looks really intriguing and finding out what it is always very satisfying. There’s something about the Wildlife Watch spread, too. I sometimes look at that page a bit, if I need to calm myself down.
Probably the most important question. Being that information is power (and learning), and I LOVE the idea of expanding minds both young and old, how and where can everybody get their copies of Science+Nature, so we can all start raising the standards of the world around us.
Nice work, Steve. Yes – if you want to win at life… or at least get an amazing quality magazine that will grab both grown ups and kids alike, go to your local WHSmith, Sainsbury, Tesco, Waitrose, and independent newsagents. Also Amazon, if that’s your bag.
Thank you, so much for a fascinating interview.
The second issue of Science+Nature is out now in all good shops. To make sure you don’t miss out on having fun while expanding your mind, check https://sciencenature.theweekjunior.co.uk for subscription details..