Good Science Education
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
Homework: See the website of the National
Science Teachers Association, www.nsta.org