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Sparking Science Interest Outside of School

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This Education Week article about a new report put out by the the National Research Council discusses recent findings that informal science activities—such as visiting a museum, watching TV shows, and even conversations with family members—have the potential to improve students' learning and appreciation of science.

Although it is difficult to assess how much accurate information students do pick up from informal science activities, the researchers broke up the study into six categories:

They include building motivation to learn about the natural world; understanding scientific arguments, concepts, models, and facts; manipulating, testing, exploring, and questioning; understanding the nature of scientific knowledge, institutions, and processes; using scientific language and tools and working with one another; and thinking of themselves as science learners who can contribute to the field.

One point I found interesting was that educational TV shows were much more effective at conveying information about science than digital devices, games, or radio, although one science education expert said that conclusion makes sense, since research on those mediums is fairly new. He also said that it was hard to measure the "spark" that occurs when a student comes to a new understanding of what science is and what it is to think scientifically, which is the ultimate goal of many of these programs.

In my opinion, although it may be difficult to pinpoint, the more ways there are to generate that spark, and the more students are exposed to those opportunities—both in and out of school—the better.

3 Comments

Classroom motivation is simple. Students must be presented with problems, facts, concepts, skills, attitudes, phenomena,and generalizations which intrigue them and are relevant to them. Discrepant events, weird facts, puzzling questions will provide the itch that must be scratched. Education should be an appetite. Until this easily accomplished focus on intrinsic motivation is more universal, no amount of standards, testing, and curricular change will make a difference. Ask yourself how often you see curiosity motivation as part of any conversation on school reform, even when the topic is motivation. Just as teaching is the stepchild of education, curiosity is the stepchild of motivation. It is right in front of us. Give the stepchildren a place at the table. In concentrating on the end of the road and the road, we have neglected the vehicle to get us there, not to mention the fuel. Frank T. Lyman, Jr.

Where does taking standardized tests over and over and over again fit in on the motivation spectrum?

Or maybe it doesn't?

Motivation is pretty much the most difficult factor to draw from students due to their want of new ways on how their lectures will be presented. It is not surprising that most of the activities suggested above are done outside the classroom, so motivation probably is no longer limited to rooms. In fact, most schools such as the interior design program in college have started promoting their education through online courses.

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