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Shock Treatment for Science Education?

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I spent the holiday weekend at my parent's house in Richmond, Va., where my Dad raised an interesting (if not harebrained) theory about why students aren't motivated to study science. The real downfall of science education, he said, are all the safety regulations that prevent kids from "doing anything exciting." Some of his favorite childhood memories were formed while he was hunkered down over a chemistry set, where he would mix chemicals and perform experiments that sometimes resulted in a spontaneous combustion or a singed eyebrow. If science education were more like that, he argued, kids would be more interested. He went on to explain his favorite experiments, which mostly involved setting things on fire.

My point of view was that although science labs would definitely benefit from some revising and additional funding, safety regulations are in place for good reason, and besides, the burden should not be put on teachers to make lessons more like episodes of MythBusters, but on the students, to approach classes with the understanding that they will have to study concepts that aren't always flashy and sensational. Truthfully, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle of those two perspectives.

Nevertheless, I thought of my Dad this morning when I saw this article in the Baltimore Sun called "Classes educate, shock," which discusses the ways that hands-on and visually exciting experiments can help students understand and appreciate science.

Perhaps my Dad's suggestions were not as harebrained as I thought.

What do you think? Does science education need a little shock treatment to get kids interested? Or is it already headed in the right direction?

5 Comments

People of influence want the best for our kids so they try to put the best people in each classroom. Unfortunately, their version of the best is different from the kids version of the best.

When universities and state departments of education try to choreograph every course, it takes away from the spontaneity, excitement and joy. The pleasure is removed for the teacher and the student. The errors, the screw-ups and the fun are all gone. Freedom and liberty are replaced with testing and benchmarks.

Just hire teachers and let them teach in the classroom where they feel at home. Stop trying to catagorize everyone and pretending a class is a science class when it is not.

"Bill Nye the Science Guy" and "Popular Mechanics for Kids" didn't exist when I was young, but I wish they had! Science is fun when humor and real-world applications are stressed. And fun, focused practical repetition is required to gain an understanding of the theoretical concepts presented.

Ultimately, I majored in science in college because of 2 specific teachers--a blind woman named Miss McFarlane in 7th grade and a man named Mr. Bielich in 10th grade. They were able to present it in a way that was fun and made sense, and, while challenging, wasn't frustrating.

My mom and dad helped by taking us to school science fairs and helping us with memorization. They even hired older students as tutors a couple of times to get past some major conceptual hurdles, and we always had a relatively quiet place to work.

I also studied in the "track" system, where students were placed in courses with other students similar to them in mastery of a given subject, so teachers didn't generally go too fast or too slow for the students, even with large classes.

I am a recent graduate (K-8 science teacher) and, of course, I have to sub. When I teach science and ask the kids about their labs they have done and they tell me they hardly do any!!! WHAT!!?? How can you teach science without rolling up your sleeves and DO science? It makes me very sad to think that children are losing interest because it is taught just like any other subject...teacher lead. There are so many great activities for each aspect of science, but just lazy teachers...I'll take your job if you don't want it.

Young children need to be shown how science relates to their everyday lives and how if they change a variable and observe... they are doing science. Watching to see what happens makes science fun. That is what is called "inquiry". If your school isn't giving your kids time to see what happens or rushes through procedures without thought, they are not doing science, and it is not fun. Real science is fun! Show them the fun, and they will come.

I teach science 4-7 in Texas. We are so burrened by TAKS and benchmarks etc. It is difficult to get the fun part of science in but when you do the kids bloom. They love taking things out of the fish tank and finding algae, they are amazed how many colours you get out of black ink, and when they do DNA and design their own baby using dominant and resessive traits they really get to see how science is everywhere.
I truely believe that students cannot understand science without hands on concepts.

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  • Debra J. Robinson: I teach science 4-7 in Texas. We are so burrened read more
  • Linda Rieger, Pathways into Science: Young children need to be shown how science relates to read more
  • Carla: I am a recent graduate (K-8 science teacher) and, of read more
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  • Norm North Jr.: People of influence want the best for our kids so read more

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