Through teaching I want to convey to students the wonders of the natural world, the workings of the world and how we have discovered the intricacies of these systems. My goals are for students to gain an appreciation for the complexities of the natural world and the systems that have developed. As a part of this goal I want to instill an idea of inquiry in their everyday lives and the wonders of Science. Students should constantly be looking critically at everything they see and constantly re-evaluating their positions on a multitude of topics. I believe that students learn best when they can ask their own questions and discover the answers for themselves or with the aid of others. The use of discussions, working in groups in the labs and partner or group research projects allows students to gain other people’s insights and point of view. Students become captivated when they can investigate topics that are of interest to them. Sometimes this interest needs to be captured using select activities and real-world connections. We also need to generate interest and connections in topics that on the surface appear boring.
This can be best accomplished through a mixture of hands on activities, demoes, real world experiences and independent projects. Demonstrations allow the introductions of new concept, and ideas. They serve as a hook for the students to get engaged in the topic and to start thinking about the topic and any questions they may have. Hands on activities such as lab activities allow the students to interact with the concepts and gain practical experience. Students are also able to be creative, testing ideas and questions that they may have without turning to the internet for an answer. Hands on activities allow students to work together to solve problems. Most times with lab activities students are not working alone like when taking notes during a lecture but in groups or pairs. This means that the students are not only working together on the project but are able to work off each other with their own solutions, questions and ideas. Real life experiences allow the students to connect what they are learning with the world around them and why it is important. Students understanding how water pollution can impact oxygen levels and cause fish populations to decline and change to species that tolerate low oxygen levels out in the world is more impactful than a single lecture on the topic. Lastly independent projects such as Science Fairs, POEs or research papers allow the students to be independent and to pursue topics and questions within their interests. Additionally, these projects are pure inquiry, where the students come up with the topic, how they want to address that topic and what questions they want to answer.
My experiences have taught me that Science education can very easily fall into the trap of lectures and cookie cutter labs. It is much easier and quicker to lecture on a topic than to give the students time and space to answer their own questions and discover the answers to the question’s teachers pose on their own. Cookie cutter labs are easy to do year after year and to get the same results, but they can stifle student creativity and prevent questions and discussions that could engage the students more than just doing the lab. Science education is a process of constantly trying, re-evaluating and trying again. You cannot stay stagnant and do the same activities, lectures or even questions year after year because science is not stagnant. New discoveries are being made every day and these need to be incorporated into your lessons.
Science education strives to teach students inquiry and to think critically about the world around them. We want them to learn how to construct an argument based upon evidence and reasoning. We want to teach them the skills that scientists use when they are engaged in research and doing “real science”.