"It isn't difficult to teach those under the right 40% or so of the Gaussian how science works. What's more, it it far more important to teach how it works than it is to try and stuff a bunch of data into a young person's head. It is also fairly pointless to do such stuffing if the methodology of science isn't already well understood. The fact that it isn't getting done is a national tragedy."

The debate, sharpened yet again - this time noted in Scientific American

There may not be much to comment on - but here's another chance anyway!

Tags: facts, methods, science_education

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Here's a comment from a recent book ad from the National Academies Press

K-8 science education in California (as in many other parts of the country) is in a state of crisis. K-8 students in California spend too little time studying science, many of their teachers are not well prepared in the subject, and the support system for science instruction has deteriorated. A proliferation of overly detailed standards and poorly conceived assessments has trivialized science education. And all these problems are likely to intensify: an ongoing fiscal crisis in the state threatens further cutbacks, teacher and administrator layoffs, and less money for professional development.

The advertised book which tackles this issue? Nurturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Education fo... And, of course, it's also free to read on the site - and also free to download.
It is correct to say that much of what is taught as "science" is just "facts". There are some fundamentals though that probably should be taught before the exploratory true science can begin happening in earnest, simply because there are a few millenia of background knowledge behind modern science.
The logic in curriculum design seems to be: Science is important, therefore all students should learn science, but not all students want to pursue science, so we will form a committee (always a bad sign...) and choose the disconnected bits and pieces that Everyone Should Know to become Scientifically Literate.
Which of course devolves to "cram the dry facts".
This is how I would like to teach Science: http://www.thestar.com/atkinsonseries/atkinson2009/article/720658--...
Hi Ed,

Now that is one of the best articles on school design that I have seen for a long time. I'm going to be sharing that with a number of people; thanks for the resource. Actually, it made my day.

Funny how powerful it is to hear about a positive working model of true learning, geared to be in alignment with brain development, geared for involvement and deep understanding. Sometimes things look mighty bleak in the education world. Seeing stuff like this revs up the energy. It can be done...

By the way, it's so wonderful to have you around Fireside. So glad you're putting up posts, sharing what you've been thinking about and doing. We are enriched by your presence!
I would love to do something like this. In my 11 Physics class there is a design project for each unit, so the students get to both put theory to praqctice, but also get to see, first hand, that the world is not as simple as a word problem.
Currently they are building musical instruments, and after reading the article on the Australian school, and a few articles on the Sudbury Valley School, I wondered what would happen if I didn't teach the formulas ahead of time - what if I just said, on day one, "You will be building a musical instrument. I have prepared a list of terms and topics you might find useful. Go."
It seems to me the results would be interesting, though getting dragged into the principal's office for "dereliction of duty", not so much. Assessment might be tricky, and unfortunaley the ministry of education does insist on that sort o fthing. Still, something to think about...
Hi Ian,

I'm always involved in nature education. Is it ok if I add in a few rambling thoughts?

Learning about nature is highly-individualized.

Some kids will thrive on a butterfly net, an identification book, and open fields. They'll be driven to hunt, identify, release, hunt, identify, release. They'll accumulate a huge base of facts over a couple of weeks and then gradually, through heaping up identification skills, develop a structure for understanding of classification that leads outwards to everything else. And they'll pretty much set for life with a passion for staying attuned and building up their knowledge-base, having had the opportunity of beginning a study that way.

Other kids want nothing to do with the naming, that's not so much what interests them. They want to see transformations and relationships. What's fascinating is metamorphosis; predator-prey evolutionary strategies; niches and habitats. That's what will drive those students' passions. They need to be left to observe, record reflections and observations in journals. Walk with through the woods and fields, help them to see. Then set them free with their journals, give them long time periods for observation.

In science, the facts need to accumulate. But people will get to that in different ways.

The whole science curriculum issue needs to be discussed. We can not get to true understanding--and passion for science study--when it's presented simply as a batch of stuff to memorize. Yet we desperately need people to be well-educated in science. How to get there?

It's horrible to hear about science not being emphasized in schooling these days--or how it's taught in a way that deadens people's interest. So, so, so important! Oops--gotta go, the kids are here!


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