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Teaching science as religion

22 Jan

How do you teach science?

Most science teachers ideally incorporate projects, research, and inquiry into the curriculum.  Honestly, to what extent do we do that?  We spend a lot of time also teaching the history of science and performing traditional “cookie-cutter” labs.  We tell our students what the currently accepted theories are and then we test them over it, expecting them to have all of the “facts” memorized.  And, if you’re in the public school system, you hardly have time for inquiry and what-not since you are essentially forced to teach to a standardized test.

So (brace yourself), how is this fundamentally any different than teaching religion?

In many circles those two words, science and religion, don’t get along so well (which in my opinion is silly, as the two are not mutually exclusive, but that’s a topic for another time).  The last thing many science teachers want to hear is that they are, in fact, teaching religion. 

If we don’t make the students actually PERFORM science though, how is it truly different?  Telling the kiddos that Mendel mated pea plants and found a 9:3:3:1 ratio when he crossed parent plants that were heterozygous for two traits…teaching that the world came into existence as a result of the big bang…teaching that there is a teeny tiny organelle called a mitochondrion in your cells that basically helps you produce energy…these are all explanations that can be memorized.  Very little of it is usually taught in such a way that the students come to this idea on their own. 

And, taking this idea one step further, if this is how we teach science, is it any wonder that some students choose NOT to accept the currently accepted theories of evolution and the big bang?  We often present it as memorizable facts–just like their parents and pastors do for creationism.

Bottom line: we need more project based learning, research, and inquiry in science classes.  Make the students think, make them hypothesize, make them research, make them collaborate.  Make them DO science.

Science education’s great loss

6 Jan

Recently the science education world, and more specifically the world of biology teachers, lost a great colleague, Kim Foglia.  Ms. Foglia was an extremely generous and well-known AP Biology teacher who shared everything online (ExploreBiology) with other science teachers, many of whom she probably never even met.  Many biology teachers around the world were, and are, incredibly grateful for the help and support she provided other teachers by sharing her ideas and lessons.  Many of us are probably better teachers in many ways because of her.  She will be missed.

Science of Everyday Life

26 Nov

All teachers have heard students ask, “Why do we have to learn this?”  or “How are we ever going to use this?” or “What does this have to do with anything?”

3M (known for Post-Its) and Discovery Education have partnered to create the website Science of Everyday Life.  On this website, one will find resources for students and teachers in regards to…well, science in everyday life (good name for the site, then, huh?).  The following quote sums it up:

Aligned to national standards, these exciting inquiry-based lessons address key areas of life science, physical science, earth science, and technology/innovation using common materials you can find in your classroom. Help students make real world connections to science and ignite the spark that may eventually lead students to a scientific career!

Here is an example of a lesson from the site–

“Cushion It”: Collisions are a part of everyday life. Some are wanted (baseball and bat), some are unwanted (car crash), while others are unavoidable (stubbing one’s toe). There is a great deal of basic science involved with collisions and in this lesson.

Cool stuff for making science relevant.  Go check it out.

Species list of genomes

5 Sep

For lists of complete sequenced genomes, visit the Ensembl site here.

The Philosophy of Science

25 Aug

What is science, anyway?  How does science work? 

These are philosophical questions that are addressed by the (aptly named) philosophy of science.

Visit Berkeley’s site on the philosophy of science for an overview and flowchart to depict how science works.

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