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Curriculum & Instruction        < Previous        Next >


Good Science Education


Q. Science is so much fun! It disturbs me that so many science classrooms are still stuck in the old-fashioned ways: textbooks, worksheets and dull, predictable experiments, for the most part. That must be why so many students don't get in to science, and cut themselves off from many terrific careers in science and technology. How can we turn this around?


There's a good article on just that topic from the American School Board Journal:


The answer appears to be hands-on science class activities that link the students' existing knowledge with real-world applications. For example, in the article above, students did a wide range of real-life learning activities involving a California watershed and gained huge increases in science test scores. They practiced scientific fieldwork techniques and prepared meaningful charts and reports. It had to be far more interesting and instructive than sitting in class listening to a teacher lecture, or reading a dull science textbook.


Actually, those textbooks are notorious for containing factual errors, relegating scientific principles to cartoon-like graphics, and missing the mark in a lot of ways with overly simplistic writing, as the article sets out.


Another reason for mediocre or poor science instruction is the academic preparation of the science teacher: often, it's woefully lacking. Parents whose children are in the classrooms of teachers who really don't know science, or even like it, would be well-advised to homeschool or afterschool their children on science, by purchasing reference books, going on family field trips, shadowing working scientists, and of course, the old standby, doing at-home science experiments of all kinds.


It's also important to note that good teaching techniques that go far beyond lecturing are in order for a good science classroom. Teachers should be leading group discussions, assigning students to write journals about their science thinking, making models, and preparing illustrations and presentations.


It's crucial that the instructions be crystal clear and that students feel confident that they know what to do, so that they will feel free to get involved and plunge into the activities. It's also crucial that the classroom environment be highly tolerable of mistakes, because it is through mistakes that kids learn the most in science.


Of course, you want to set things up so that those mistakes don't blow up the school . . . but you get the idea.


It's true: science can be a lot of fun. And, in fact, it should be.


Homework: See the website of the National Science Teachers Association,


By Susan Darst Williams Curriculum 02 2008


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