Pathfinders Project partners with JREF (and goes to TAM!)


Pathfinders ProjectPathfinders Project is a yearlong humanist service trip that will be evaluating programs for a future Humanist Action: Ghana.

Since April, we have shared our growing excitement about Pathfinders Project, a yearlong international service and research trip sponsored by Foundation Beyond Belief. Pathfinders Project will not only continue Foundation Beyond Belief’s efforts to demonstrate humanist generosity and compassion through its clean water and human rights projects, it will also promote reason through its education projects.

In these education projects, the Pathfinders will draw upon the resources and expertise of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), whose mission is to promote critical thinking and provide the public with the tools needed to reliably examine paranormal, supernatural, and pseudoscientific claims. JREF has developed engaging online modules and classroom curricula to teach the value of inquiry by allowing students to test the effectiveness of “Divination with Dowsing Rods and Pendulums,” see behind the wizard’s curtain with “The Psychic’s Tools of the Trade,” explore the importance of evidence in “Skepticism 101,” come to their own conclusions in “Do You Have ESP?” and many more.

The Pathfinders were already planning on making use of the free online resources from the James Randi Educational Foundation. Some of the online modules guide students through the process of designing controlled experiments, collecting data, and evaluating the significance of the results. Others use historical examples of hoaxes and pseudoscientific claims to allow students to compare the reliability of different kinds of evidence. All of them are well suited to the work the Pathfinders will be doing with the Kasese Humanist Primary School and the Mustard Seed Secondary School in Uganda (part of the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust), given that both schools are guided by the principles of humanism and place an emphasis on cultivating critical thinking in their students.

When JREF heard about what we wanted to do, they offered to donate the classroom kits used to run JREF workshops. These classroom kits take the online modules to the next instructional level with handouts, materials, lesson plans, and manipulatives, and they can of course still be supplemented with the online modules for extended learning. This arrangement will allow JREF to expand its reach and Pathfinders Project to more effectively promote critical thinking. JREF will get to see its powerful curricula in action internationally, and Pathfinders Project will have a strong educational counterbalance to its clean water and human rights projects.

Want to know more? Conor Robinson, the director of Pathfinders Project, will be attending The Amazing Meeting (TAM), the annual conference for skeptics put on by the James Randi Educational Foundation each year. Find Conor at the Foundation Beyond Belief table and say hi!

If you are not able to attend TAM but would still like to contact Conor, feel free to email your comments, questions, and suggestions.

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