Science-it’s a subject that often will be the most difficult and most exciting to teach. When I think back to my early years as a student and my initial exposure to science, I often recall the exciting scientific exploits of Bill Nye the Science Guy, or in later years The Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin. Both taught and explored with a passion that came right through the television screen, grabbed your attention, and brought you in to the experience.
But how do we teach like this in school ourselves? They don’t train you for teaching science in college, they train you for teaching. Very few workshops are available that will provide a teacher with direction on how to perform safe and fun scientific classroom demonstrations when compared to the workshops available for reading, math, or management.
We all know that the students are much more engaged in science when they can explore, see things firsthand, touch, experiment, and take ownership. I’ve read that science can be defined as the systematic attempt to gain knowledge through experimentation, exploration, and study of theories and principles. So how do we bring that experimentation into our classrooms without blowing the place up? The answer lies in finding what you can explore safely and then simply implementing it.
Often in the early years, science focuses on the natural, physical, and earth domains. These are areas in which we can teach in a classroom, but why would we want to? If the option for teaching about clouds consist of drawing them on the whiteboard or walking outside and looking at clouds, why not go look at some real clouds? Sure you still need your lesson time and want to get the defined description to the students, so you can’t be walking outside every five minutes. But you can go once per week and explore the clouds, shapes, trees, leaves, wind, direction, etc.
Another great way to get exploration is to let the children find or build simple machines. They may not be able to build their own pulley, but they can definitely build levers, inclined planes, and things made from gears on the playground as you take your nature walk.
There are also a ton of great tools on the web, some created by fellow teachers, others created by great companies, in which you can find safe demonstrations to perform in class, lesson plans, and ideas for your classroom. Don’t be afraid to seek out ideas through the teachers stores or on the Internet; there are a lot of great ideas available.
I’ve always found that the best way to teach science is to let the text and workbooks supplement the student’s own findings, rather than having the text drive the learning. All of those great scientists we remember from the past, Nye, Irwin, Jacques Cousteu, Jack Hanna didn’t read from a text book and make you put answers in a workbook. They gave students a firsthand experience to remember, even if the student wasn’t even there in person. We remember them because they brought us in as students to their research. Our students will be just as excited about science if we can find ways to make it exciting for them.
About the Author
Erin Klein is a second grade teacher in Michigan and author of the award winning edu tech blog, Kleinspiration. She is also a certified SMART Board Trainer and SMART Exemplary Educator. Erin serves as the Michigan Reading Association’s co-technology chairperson and is a member of The National Writing Project.