01 January 2009

Teaching Science.

"Is there a lack of scientists due to a lack of wonder?" asks a middle school science teacher at A Voice From the Middle blog. Not enough Americans are pursuing math and science career options because, he opines, the science curriculum as currently presented in most American schools doesn't fuel a child's natural inquisitiveness.

"We are so caught up in teaching content through having students memorize facts," he writes, "that most students do not get to capture the sense of wonder of simply discovering things. I do not believe the way to deal with this problem is to radically change the curriculum we are teaching but instead change how we are teaching it. If we can produce more inquisitive students, they will naturally flock to these fields.A college professor of mine once told me that the purpose of school was not to memorize information but rather learn how to ask the right questions. In this digital age there is no lack of information but there is a reluctance to question things and to seek out that information. Teachers need to spend more time in inquiry-style teaching where students are not simply spoon-fed answers but rather are responsible for even figuring out what the problem is and then come up with possible solutions."

Oh, boy. I wish I had a friend like this to help me teach science every now and then. I can't quite do it from the book as well as I'd like.

Today, we were learning about gravity and mass. We learned the fact that the earth pulls on every object, and that this pull is called gravity. Of course Elf told me this was only PARTIALLY true because birds don't have gravity. People have magnets in their feet to make them stick that way to the ground (?!), but leaves do not. This is why leaves are blown about in the breeze and people are not.

Speaking of which, why isn't the wind stuck by gravity? Emperor wants to know. And if you're teaching me that gasses become liquids when they're cold, howcome there's air at the South Pole?

Well...

I don't know. I'm sure there are really good answers to all your questions, but for now we will just accept that winds blowing and birds flying are special miracles from God, ok? I see by the looks on their faces that this is NOT OK with them. But the answer is not in the book. Crap. I'm mentally putting those things on a "look up later" list. These are things that have been around me all my life, but I'm stumped by a little kid's simple and genuine question.

Diversion tiiiime! HEY. Remember I told you we'd blow up a balloon and you could see that a balloon's air has mass? Hm? Let's do that. Now, we put the deflated balloon on one side of the hangar, and we blow up a balloon and tie it to the other side. According to the book, the side with the air in it will hang lower than...

The children are yelling with joy because the balloon is coming after me!

Well, it wasn't supposed to do that. It's static electricity, you see. Oh... um, where does that come from? Um... well... where does it come from. Um. Well, you can *see* where it comes from, right? Weren't you watching? Okaaaaaay, I really don't know where that comes from, either. (BOY do I feel stupid!)

Well, let's hang the balloons on the wall here after we rub them on our heads.

And so ends our science lesson. I think next time we buy science curriculum, we'll have to buy the kind with all the experiments on video.

4 comments:

  1. Yeah! Now a days there is no interest in science
    teaching jobs

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  2. Your "wonder" in science make me recall a conversation with a friend this summer. I was gushing about how I saw God's hand in my new garden. The way cucumber vines stretch and coil around fencing, the way eggplants have big leaves to shield the fruit from the hot sun, etc. Friend saw all these delightful details as evidence of no God. Still trying to figure that one out. All I know is that there is a good reason why God wanted me to garden, and that was so I could know Him.

    Allison

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  3. I agree that a natural wonder and curiosity would help with learning science.

    I must say that the internet is a great source of looking stuff up, but here's my understanding of things:

    Birds are absolutely affected by gravity, that is why they have to flap their wings. Sometimes, however, due to the lift produced by the curve of their wings--much like airplane wings which produce lift by the vacuum created when the air has to travel further over the top of the wing--allows them to "float" ... but even there gravity is working on them, they are just overcoming it for a moment, much like we do when we jump.

    We do not use magnetism to stick to the ground, and that's good because otherwise it would be much harder to walk [smile]. Leaves are also affected by gravity, but since gravity is such a relatively weak force, it is easily overcome by the wind's force. People are not blown around because of our much higher mass.

    Wind is affected by gravity, but we must also remember that air is a fluid (gasses are fluids too) and so it will separate out into different densities, much like water and oil. So, the more dense cool air (the molecules aren't as excited so they are closer together, so there is more in a particular area, making it overall heavier) sinks too the bottom because it is heavier and gravity pulls it down. The warm air rises (less dense, so it "floats"--like oil on water--on top of the cooler air). But then it cools off as it radiates heat into space, and sinks down, pushing the air below it away... causing wind. So wind is actually evidence of gravity doing it's work on the air molecules around you. Cool, eh?

    Different things have different freezing points. Pure water freezes at 32 degrees, but salt water freezes at a much lower temperature. Similarly, Oxygen and Nitrogen freeze at a much, much, much lower temperature (I don't remember what, but it would be fun to look up [smile]) and the South Pole isn't nearly that cold.

    ...phew. I think I got most of 'em. Isn't science super cool?!

    Hmm, as for Static Electricity, I know it comes from the electrons getting excited. I believe it is due to friction, but exactly how it works has escaped me. But friction is another great force (that happens to be stronger than gravity in many instances: As demonstrated by your balloons sticking to the wall).

    Sounds like a great science lesson! I really look forward to learning (relearning?) all these cool science items when I start homeschooling. I hear we learn more than our kids!

    As for a DVD with science experiments, I know of a few [smile].

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  4. I think the right answer has to lie somewhere in between these two extremes. Both are important.

    Expat 21
    "Expat Abroad" - a teacher in the Middle East
    expat21.wordpress.com

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