The Way Forward Starts Here - What Went Right
Let's face it, unless you add some type of entertainment into your science lesson, students are going to wane on you. There are a a lot of unique science-related games and sims out there . You can find more on Edtechteacher . They have a great list of programs and informative content to keep the busiest of students motivated and engaged.
Trying to stay on top of the latest trends in science and mathematics is never-ending. MIT has a great listing of courses to help keep the old brain frisky to learn. There are other free online science courses being offered at a number of different universities across the country. I was surprised to see my own stomping grounds Utah State University, on the list.
Terminology - say what?
I was split-teaching between the high school and the middle school science departments last week. I am not a science major by no means - but I like science. So filling in for that department is always fun for me. Just picking up the books and observing the surroundings is fascinating. I probably couldn't give you an on the spot review of meiosis vs. mitosis, but I get the concepts. If you can get your students to understand the concepts, you are halfway there. By the end of the week, I had the terms down to a science (pun intended).
Surprisingly there are still a lot of people who envision Science as some stale environment where everyone is wearing white lab coats, donning four-inch thick-rimmed glasses, while gawking into microscopes and filling Petri-dishes. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Believe it or not, learning about the elements can be an adventure all by itself. Terminology must be taught. In order to effectively teach science requires a teacher who can get into the hands-on-teaching aspects, and inspire students to pull up their sleeves and get their hands dirty!
The lesson we were involved with at the high school had to deal with agriculture science and the nutrients in domestic animal feed. Yep, we were learning about all things "Cow". That included elements going into the cow, chewing the cud, and the final excrement process. I can assure you those students will never forget the lesson on "Cows". Nor shall I! Luckily, for this lesson, there was no hands-on contact with any part of the "Cow".
Cleaning the guinea cage and feeding Mom.
Somewhere between "Cow" intestines, and gut, there were other classroom duties that needed tending to. In the back of the classroom were three furry little guinea pigs. Butter who is the fat one, and two others who were not hurting in the fat department. Sorry, I'm not discriminating due to Butter's size, she was just the most lovable. There was also an oversized fish tank with one slightly older goldfish named "Mom". One of my duties for the week was to feed and tend the living quarters of these highly sensitive but not so rare creatures.
I quickly delegated the task of guinea pig cage cleaner to one particular student. He promptly re-delegated the guinea pig cage clean up duties to two other students, who expressed their concern with him dealing with the animals. He was forthright in his duties of feeding Mom. However, it did require that we strain the excess goldfish flakes from the tank. He dumped a 1/4 of the bottle into the tank. We moved on from there.
When in doubt stick in a movie!
While I don't mind ditto sheets for teaching, there is a lot to be said for leaving the answers for one to be able to teach on the topic. With a 47 question and answer session in front of me, I spent the better part of three hours researching and preparing for a life science lecture to help the students with an introductory chapter. Mind you, I'm no science major, so they only got what I was able to research (they aced the quiz that week). There was another science teacher in the room adjacent to me, so I was able to get some of the simpler concepts out of the way, thanks to her help. I made my classroom about the students and included them in the research. Kids who had never raised their hands in this class before - started taking the lead.
Yes, I opted for a movie one day. But not completely. I only did a 12 minute movie, and then I took the challenge - I taught science. Students who didn't have a clue about science, nor were they willing to sit still in class for 10 minutes, were writing for me! They were writing and taking notes, they were asking questions. The kid who over fed Mom, was my main bright and shining star! His grade just hit a D I am sure (that would be passing). He was proud to turn in the 47 questionnaire with all the answers. He exclaimed, I know what "CHONS" stands for!
Together, I took those students on a science journey - one that gave them a glimpse of what real MAD COW science really looks like. It was WEIRD. They liked WEIRD. But they learnt that science has value, and that their thoughts matter, no matter how MAD or WEIRD those thoughts may be.
If you don't remember the elements of CHONS from your science years, go look them up. It's a challenge! Better yet, create your own puzzle and give it out to your staff or students to solve. CHONS has to do with "Cow", and the nutrients "Cow's" need.
If you can image 25 to 30 students all between the ages of 12 and 13, each given a laptop, and told to write about an animal of their choice; hope to God that the choice is not a "Cow".
There are animals I didn't know existed. But these kids found them. Just to keep it interesting here is a list of 22 strange animals you probably didn't know existed. One student chose an animal that was akin to a jack rabbit, because it was her real life name. For the life of me, I can't remember the students name, so I just call her jack rabbit - and she laughs. What parent names their child after a rabbit? Hers!
Computer technology has come a long way in the halls of education. These 7th grade students were easily navigating online power point programming, and linking web addresses for citings and other research materials. Embedding images in my day weren't taught until I was in college! Students today are so digitally savvy it is almost bionically creepy. WEIRD MAD science.
Where they lack in - is research. Their peers of the past had more find tuned research abilities.
Pre-test - whose the real scientists in the group?
I did give a pretest quiz to the 7th graders. It was one of those quizzes where you had to look up the answers in the book. That was a sleeper assignment. I decided to make it a winner take all event, and hand out treats to those who could answer the questions verbally. But first they had to do the following:
1. Research the topic
2. They had to spell the word to the class
3. Read the definition to the class
Since it was all open book, it allowed those students who weren't hard core academic's to get involved! They were! Students after my own heart.
Science technology has grown over the years. So have students, in how they learn and acquire science knowledge. They aren't going to just answer ditto sheets and have that become the building blocks of knowledge. Who teaches that way anymore? Actually, I would personally like to burn all ditto sheets as a rebellious protest! Let them learn "Cow". Hands on!