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.