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How to teach kids science...

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#1 of 11 OFFLINE   Max Leung

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Posted March 18 2003 - 03:52 PM

I think this woman has the right idea:

A Radical Formula for Teaching Science

Ok, it isn't really all that radical if you're used to reading popular science books (many of which are absolutely outstanding, like Carl Zimmer's Parasite Rex or anything by Carl Sagan), but for use in classrooms, it is!

Wow, science is more than just memorizing a bunch of meaningless facts? Whodathunkit?

[quote] "{Text}Books are written by committees. They have no literary merit, no voice, no style, no charm," he said. "They are focused almost exclusively on facts, and since each highly paid consultant must contribute his or her iota, they are much, much too fat. The result is that children learn sophisticated, though disconnected, factoids for next week's test, fail to relate it to anything else they have learned, spew it out on the test and then utterly forget it." [quote]
Ain't that the truth. I learned next to nothing about science in school. The only reason I knew anything at all was because I was fascinated with spaceships from all those crazy space simulation videogames I played when I was a kid.
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him...a super-callused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.


#2 of 11 OFFLINE   Jeffrey Noel

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Posted March 18 2003 - 04:36 PM

Max, my major in college is Elementary Education with an Middle Level endorsement in Science, so I'm glad to see your post. Science has not been taught very well. Textbooks flat out suck. I've never learned anything from them, only from experiments. However, those in college for teaching are being taught to use more hands-on activities in class. Unfortunately, it all boils down to what each state or goverment requires a teacher to teach via standards. It's all about how well the students do on the stupid "end-of-year" tests. The better the students do, the more funding the schools get. I can't wait until I get my own classroom so I can make science fun. I'm sick of hearing students saying science is boring. That just shows what type of science teacher they had. Science is FAR from boring!
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#3 of 11 OFFLINE   EdR


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Posted March 18 2003 - 05:37 PM

I learned next to nothing in school about science. And that's despite the fact that I was always interested in it. I ended up teaching myself what I wanted to know by reading science books (not text books), which I continue to do as an adult. What surprises me in the years I've spent studying science, is how little we appreciate how often we use science in our daily lives. Human beings are all scientists, to some extent, from the intuitive physics we employ to throw a ball, to the chemistry we perform in the kitchen while cooking. Daily life is filled with science problems and solutions. IME, school depersonalizes science, removes it from the tangble realm to rote factual memorization (who really understands what it means that the sun is 93 million miles away...it's just a big number). I'm not an educator, so I'm not really clear on how to fix this problem, but I certainly recognize it from my own youth. It's sad that even someone like me with a lifelong interest in science had to go otuside school to learn anyting about it.

#4 of 11 OFFLINE   Cees Alons

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Posted March 18 2003 - 08:18 PM

It's great that she does it. I always sort of wanted to write some of those kind of books myself - and, for various reasons, never did. In my opinion it isn't too complicated to teach children how things really are, but only if you understand it well enough yourself. And take the time to realize at what level you have to explain it. The often heard argument "he's much too clever about his subject to teach" is bullshit, IMO. Good observation that it should be in one hand! The committee approach indeed isn't working that well, nor is the "journalist" approach ("Prof. Randolph Meadows of UCLA puts it this way: bla, bla, bla, really not too difficult Randolph says. John Finkeridge of MIT adds another viewpoint: light speed is basically relative to...") I do hope she finds a publisher! Cees

#5 of 11 OFFLINE   Leila Dougan

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Posted March 19 2003 - 02:45 AM

A biology teacher in my HS taught the whole semester from various popular authors. She started out the semester by making everyone read "The God Project" by John Saul then moved on to more factual science books. I was already interested in science so I read a lot of those books on my own and just used text books to supplement my hobby. I'm probably the exception, though.

#6 of 11 OFFLINE   Brad Porter

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Posted March 19 2003 - 03:30 AM

Consider the way that social sciences are taught. Most U.S. high schools have clearly defined boundaries between history, sociology, economics, and civics. The subject of history is slighted by this approach, since the instruction is primarily centered upon dates, events, and famous people - an approach which favors memorization as a primary learning method. Kids become bored with one of the more fascinating subjects because the teaching is structured as a recitation of facts which must be regurgitated. It would be helpful if the subject of history was more broadly approached in the earlier grades, but most schools just provide a pint-sized version of the same fact-based approach to history.

Early education science teaching suffers the same fate because the scientific method is introduced simply as a definition of terms. The kids can recite the definitions of theory and hypothesis, but they don't seem to understand the actual meanings of those words (witness the common refrain of referring to evolution as "just a theory"). One of the problems seems to be that some of the best methods for presenting science (and history) are the most difficult to base an evaluation of an individual's performance. With the increasing reliance upon standardized testing as the sole evaluation of a student's aptitude, the teaching of all subjects is being treated as a guide to navigate an obstacle course of multiple choice questions. Science and the process of discovery needs to be experienced in a meaningful, revealing way, not built around a standardized test.

My dream is the direct teaching of the following subjects to children:
• Critical thinking (or perhaps deductive reasoning) - This should stop short of teaching formal logic, but needs to provide the student's with the ability to evaluate arguments and situations forensically. This skill could be introduced as a subset of reading comprehension, but it needs to be emphasized more than it currently is.
• Rhetoric - The companion to critical thinking is the construction of an effective argument of your own. We provide years of education in spelling and grammar, but most of the exercises for using those tools are based around the writing of "What I did on my summer vacation." essays. I would love to see a schoolyard argument dissolved by one child's criticism of the other's ad hominem attacks. Posted Image

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#7 of 11 OFFLINE   Ryan Wright

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Posted March 19 2003 - 05:05 AM

My 6 year old is homeschooled, and science is one of her favorite subjects. The beauty of homeschooling? We do very little reading from textbooks on many subjects, especially science. It's all hands-on. Just yesterday I got home and she had made a water wheel out of egg cartons, plates, and sticks. You poured water on top of the wheel, the wheel spun, and the water fell into the bucket. I came home and the first thing she wanted to do was tell me all about fluid dynamics. Posted Image

We never did things like this in school. I feel very lucky to have the resources so my wife can stay home and be the teacher, because I know my child is getting a better education than she could get anywhere else.

#8 of 11 OFFLINE   Max Leung

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Posted March 19 2003 - 11:22 AM

Yeah, I'd agree that not just the subject of science would benefit from a better teaching method (hands-on, and less emphasis on rote memorization). History is much more interesting if it is presented as a story, for example.

I liked my high school sociology classes. The teachers would have fun playing devil's advocate, which riled up some of the more opinionated classmates. Posted Image

It's sad that critical thinking is not taught in schools...I guess it doesn't fit in the rigid math/science/biology/social studies/language arts structure enforced by most schools these days. A course called "BS Detection Kit" probably would not fly past most school boards. Posted Image

Let's hope her book catches on...
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him...a super-callused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.


#9 of 11 OFFLINE   Ted Lee

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Posted March 19 2003 - 11:51 AM

for some reason the only thing i remember from my high-school science class was: c6 h12 o6 = glucose boy, i'm gonna be embarassed if i'm wrong. :b

#10 of 11 OFFLINE   Tom Keels

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Posted March 20 2003 - 02:08 AM

If you really want to get kids interested in science I recommend the Don Herbert Mr. Wizard shows. I know what they did for me in school. When kids are doing something cool and fun, they will learn and retain much more information than just reading textbooks.

#11 of 11 OFFLINE   Mark C Sherman

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Posted March 20 2003 - 08:08 AM

This is a great website to teach Kids about Large Numbers. Like the Dinosaurs Lived 65 million years ago, or the Sun is 93 million miles away. And Computers with 10 Gig Hard Drives what does 10 Billion of something look like? This does and its pretty cool

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