Weird Science, Ok Not So Weird

Today I took my daughter to The McWane Science Center for a birthday party.  It is one of those hands-on science museum.  It was fun watching the kids play on the different exhibits.  Its cool to see them do things that use questioning skills even if they did not know they were. I would get frustrated with my daughter when I was trying to explain why something happened and she would not listen.  But it was not until later I realized she was building knowledge she will one day recall or it will help her understand something later.

School started back this week and this is the 1st year I am just teaching science. My first day with my new classes we discussed why we have science class.  I told them two reasons.

The first was to learn how to question.  Just imagine if BP and their execs and engineers asked all the questions they needed to ask before drilling in the Gulf.  Questioning was something my daughter was doing as she played with the silly exhibits at the museum.  It was natural to her.  Some how as we grow old that natural skill disappears.  Science teaches us to nourish that skill.  To help it grow.

The second reason, to learn about our impact on this planet.  I teach Earth science.  I do not see how you can just teach facts about the Earth and not teach about the impact each of us has on it.  I have always done this but this year when I explained this goal, all of my classes brought up the Deep Horizon oil leak/spill.  This was something that has happened close to their home, most had seen tar balls over the summer.  They were angry, which I think is a good thing.  This one terrible event has caused my students to relate to what I am teaching.

That brings us back to my daughter at the science museum.  Going to places like that and experiencing science hands on causes children to relate.  I know that is a over-used term in education, having the subject matter relate to them, but it can.  It goes back to the post I wrote about story telling. Teachers  are experts, they need to share their knowledge with students, but make sure they know why they are learning it.  Have them question why they should learn it. Let them question you even! Yeah I know that one is tough, no one likes that one kid who obsesses over proving you wrong, but let them know that its ok to question anything , everyone, and everything!  Be an example and question things yourself! Science is not something that can be found in a text book somewhere. It is not a bunch of facts. It is the world around us and how and why it works the way it does. Once kids understand that is the basics of science they will start notice it around them.


8 Comments Add yours

  1. Hi!
    You are so correct there! Science is something the children must feel and realize. When it comes to science teaching the teacher must give the students a chance to examine the objectives of the lesson before actually going into it. This will set the mood for the session and will have the student’s attention focused on the topic.
    Questioning is indeed an important classroom activity. Although some teachers don’t like being questioned, I feel that such questions make both the students as well as the teacher to learn. Some students love posing questions and teachers must be equally enthusiastic in answering them.
    I was posed a question a couple of days back by one of my GCSE students as to where he can find gamma rays and what their nature was. I told him that it can be found in radioactive facilities and in outer space and are extremely harmful to living cells as they can pass through them and bring about their death. He immediately related the power of gamma rays to a lesson on plastics which I had taught him a week back and asked me that if gamma rays are so powerful, why don’t we send our “indestructible” plastics to them so that they can break it down for us.
    I’ve been teaching for nearly four years now and there has not been a single class so far that hasn’t taught me something new. We are where we are right now only because our ancestors raised questions on various phenomenon and hence it is only our duty to encourage questions in our classes.
    These are some of my thoughts. What do you think?

    1. amandacdykes says:

      I thaink thats amazing your student came up with that! Hmmmm why don’t we?! I think students love posing questions but many times are discouraged from doing so. I cannot wait for a day where questioning is the norm more than memorizing or even answering! Great comment!

  2. Ben K. says:

    I completely agree with your post and your views. However, I would take it one step further. What you are describing is good teaching. Questioning skills are good for life and should be taught, encouraged and required in EVERY class. If the students are creating the questions, then they are more engaged with the material and making more relevant to their own lives.

    The only issue I have with your post is giving them answers. Once in while, I do give answers. However, the majority of the time, students are required to search for the answer. The searching might come from a text book, a web resources, a conversation with an expert, or a group discussion. Sometimes they don’t get the right answer. I see that as alright, as long as they know it’s not the right answer. Then, I make sure to reinforce the process that they went through and if they keep with that process, they will eventually get to the right answer.

    1. amandacdykes says:

      Ok Ben you scared me for a minute, I hope the post didn’t imply I gave answers. That would the the #3 thing we discussed the 1st weel in my class, how its ok to be wrong and how it is their job to search for answers. We are discussing hypothesis right now and how if your hypothesis is wrong you are just as successful than if correct. Now I do believe tachers should be experts and give kids (not lecture, but I am a real believer in story telling) the knowledge they need to make inquiry and ask questions. The cannot question about stars if they do not understand how a star “works.” From that knowledge inquiry is formed. Thanks for the comment and I totally agree on walking kids through that process while looking for answers!!

  3. Sean R. says:

    “Science is not something that can be found in a text book somewhere. It is not a bunch of facts. It is the world around us and how and why it works the way it does. Once kids understand that is the basics of science they will start notice it around them.” Awesome quote! Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. Geoff Kruse says:

    I really like what you say about questioning. I always encourage my students to ask questions. I even tell them that if I can’t explain why we are learning something, they don’t have to learn it. That usually gets the questions going pretty quickly, plus it forces me to really know my stuff. I know some teachers discourage students from asking “why” but I think it is the most essential question that we can teach them to ask. It really forces people to think about and evaluate what they are doing which is never a bad thing.

  5. ktenkely says:

    I LOVE the hands on science museum. I could stand there for hours and just watch the learning unfold. It seems to me the the school system is what breaks us of this habit. School teaches us that answers are found in books and within circles on tests, not in hands on exploration. It is too bad that we take the joy and curiosity of learning out of learning.

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