Learning science from books is the quickest way to lose your students, no matter how great the experiment, or how precise the directions. They will simply have to experience science, to want more. Much like building or crafting, science should be viewed as a hands-on subject, to achieve anticipated results, children must be taught to problem-solve in reverse!
Science can be so exciting and results-driven that everyone will want to work together as a team, even if teacher is a little apprehensive. Following the standard scientific method, find ways to get student’s five senses engaged and involved, for hands-on-learning (and retaining). Then saturate them with fun projects!
Standard Scientific Method
According to Discovery’s flow-chart, cartooned on their “How Stuff Works” website at http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/scientific-method6.htm : the scientific method is explained in 5 steps, as represented below.
1) Make an observation – field trips are great for that! For an exhaustive list of field-trip sites with links, see the article “Fall-to-Winter Science Lesson Plans and Ideas: Pre-K and Elementary” at http://look.ac/9nHSgP .
2) Ask a question – stay on topic, and keep questions about the observations. I prefer merging steps 1 and 2, for young children, specifically to keep them focused. Observe and question (see next page)!
3) Form a theory or hypothesis – have students guess at possible results; what they want to see happen, based upon their observation questions.
4) Conduct experiments and gather data – data derived from experimenting (creating circumstances) to get the desired results.
5) Conclusion either accepts or rejects the initial theory – if the students’ theory can be proven, accept the initial hypothesis, if not (if it cannot be proven through experimentation) the theory should be rejected, and your kids will need to start over.
But don’t let all that scare you away from teaching fun, and exciting science lessons. Because if it’s fun for you to teach, it will be fun for your students to learn! We’ll begin by modifying the standard scientific method to a “kid-speak”, an easier kid-friendly version.
Standard Scientific Method (Kid-Friendly Version)
1) Observe and question – example: See the wind blowing leaves off the trees, and ask; “I wonder if it will blow my hat off?”
2) Guess at a theory/hypothesis – example: If I stand outside when the wind is blowing it should blow my hat off, just like it blows leaves off the trees.
3) Get data through experiments, and form a conclusion – example: Your students participate (hands-on learning) by standing outside, in the wind, wearing different hats, then note the results, and help them conclude whether they guessed at the outcome correctly (theory/hypothesis).
If loose-fitting hats blow off, but baseball caps and knit caps stayed on the children’s heads without blowing off in the windy weather; were the students right or wrong? Working backwards, and problem-solving from this experiment (according to the data) simply change the theory, so it makes an honest, proven, scientific statement.
Restate the theory to conclude; all loose-fitting hats blow off while standing in the wind (based on data from experiments) and the conclusion will be correct. Because the kids ARE the experiment, and having experienced it, they WILL remember it! If you still need science ideas, visit “Mad Science” online at http://www.madscience.com/ for information about their before-and-after school national-science programs, science camps, and other delightfully-scientific fun in your area!
Your students will learn so much more by using this hands-on-learning approach. But watch out, you might be labeled “Best Science Teacher Ever”, even if you struggled through those science-degree courses, and were initially apprehensive about your science-teaching abilities. I promise your students will come begging for more of your science classes, just as mine did!