What if kids love Science when they are young because they get to play around with it. You know the hands-on stuff is fun and occasionally gross.
Then as we get older we lose some of the hands-on stuff so we start to hate Science. The fix is easy right? Just add more hands-on stuff!
What if the fix isn’t that easy. High school Science is more that just hands-on. It requires a bit of precision; quality measurements, repeatable experiments without impurities. This isn’t, throw some corn starch and water together and look it’s a magic substance.
Rigorous experiments in Science require creating experiments that remove all but one variable. They require students follow complicated directions and make precise measurements. Then they have to collect the data correctly and feed it into tables and graphs, perhaps even perform some magical mathematical functions. Then after all that hard work they get a conclusion that might, just might, resemble the correct conclusion in the book.
Not quite real experimental Science of discovering the cure for cancer, but closer than those semi-magical demonstrations in Kindergarten.
So what would be the better way of teaching Science?
- Nose to the grindstone. Here is your worksheet and a virtual experiment don’t make any mistakes and pay attention to those details, especially in the math.
- Do the experiment, fail, do it again because you were sloppy. Then do it again because you were sloppy, then do it again because you were sloppy, oh forget about it here are the numbers you should have gotten to use now pay attention to those details.
Yeah, I don’t like the choices either, though honestly if I were forced to pick I would choose the second. The real trick in teaching, if you want a silver bullet, Science, is to Be Less Helpful (I think Dan Meyer can be credited with coining that phrase).
So really, the question is, “How do we keep the interest of our students, in this really cool experiment, while simultaneously requiring them to take excellent measurements, and controlling for variables in experimentation?
This is, at least as I see it, a kind of middle ground. Students are still excited by Science, they are just getting bogged down in the details. Quite honestly I think those details will bore just about everyone except a Scientist. On the other hand understanding that there are details and this rigour is important are also takeaways we really need to have. However, if you want to collect excellent data and import it correctly into graphs and tables so you can examine the actual physics this seems like an excellent way to do just that.