It is not difficult to see the
impact that science and technology have had on every aspect of our daily lives.
From iPads and cell phones to advances in medicine and energy, the growth in
the last few decades, and even just in the last few years, has been
mind-boggling in its breadth and scope.
Yet, in a Popular Science article, it was reported at an incredible 69% of 2012 American high school graduates failed to meet college-readiness benchmarks in science. While differences in state and district standards may contribute to the statistic, perhaps the answer can also be found in schools’ approach to teaching science to students.
Meredith Hafer, Head of the Beacon School and Head of Academic Services for Greenwich Education Group Schools explains, “as educators, we have to remember that teaching science is not just about imparting scientific knowledge. More importantly, it is about teaching students to think like scientists."
The Right Answer Is Not Enough
John Henderson, who is the head of Math and Science for Beacon, says that when he poses questions to his students, he cares primarily about the thought process that the students use to arrive at a solution. Henderson’s approach to teaching science is based upon developing logical reasoning skills within his students that can be utilized beyond the classroom in real life.
“Some students think that science is overwhelming,” explains Henderson, “as it encompasses a lot of information.” His advice is to think about the information in little pieces that are relatable to the student. The teacher’s job is to act as a “guide” for the student so that more than a rudimentary knowledge is developed. He believes that students today need a “working knowledge” of science beyond simple memorization of concepts.
How To Probe a Topic
According to Henderson, science really isn’t constrained, but rather is exciting and limitless in terms of how far a student can take it. What does it really mean to really dig into science? Henderson asks his students to think deeply about topics. Facts are not just presented, but considered more as real life examples, which are followed by demonstrations, experiments and even independent research. In fact, the students that Henderson sees thrive are those who not only probe, but use the information to build upon their knowledge and gain new insights by asking not just “why?” but also “what’s next?”
Preparation For The Future
Although many of us still have nightmares about Chemistry or Physics exams, Henderson contends, “Science is actually not that challenging.” He does admit that it is a lot information to process, but the key to students’ understanding rests on what they are willing to do with that information and the conclusions at which they are able to arrive using it. The ideal learning environment, according to Henderson, is a small classroom where hands-on work and problem solving are emphasized, versus a large classroom in which memorization of facts is the priority.
Hafer elaborates, “Science
is about empiricism, about scrutinizing our world, finding problems, observing
data, and reasoning logically to arrive at conclusions. It’s about inquiry,
systematic investigation, and a healthy dose of skepticism. These are all
critical thinking skills that will enable students to succeed in any field,
whether they end up finding a passion in science or IT, leadership or human
services. By teaching our students to think like scientists, we are preparing
them for a future full of possibilities that we cannot anticipate.”
Inspire Intellectual Curiosity In
Science At Home
Need some inspiration to make your home a "science lab?" Scientific American has a feature, Bring Science Home, which is updated every Thursday with a science activity for 6-12 year olds complete with instructions and material lists. Another great resource is Try Science, which features a wealth of information, activities, ideas and more. Science is everywhere around us and giving our children a solid foundation in science will help them to achieve success in whatever career they pursue in life.