Thinking Like A Science Expert

Written By smcneely

On May 7, 2010

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I am not a scientist. I am married to one and sometimes that trickles over into my own life because I know just enough to be dangerous about the way scientists think and go about their work.I was not a good science student, though I was intensely interested in the work. The disconnect came because I was so supremely bored by the tasks we were assigned and the ridiculous amount of hands-off learning we were subjected to.So, no surprise, my inner-child scientist is particularly fascinated by good science instruction. Partly because I think if I would have had the right teachers, I maybe would have become a scientist. I now live and learn vicariously through students who are fortunate enough to have great science teachers. This week, I have two fun science stories to share.

First story…
I was recently in a high school science classroom where students were reading an article about daylight savings time and scientists’ projections about its dangers, particularly in coal mining communities. As kids read, they were charged with the task of inferring the specific scientific processes the researchers used to form their conclusions. This was such an authentic thinking task for kids and I found myself wondering why I hadn’t seen anybody assign such purposeful reading like this before. It seemed so simple, but such an important use of time. Couldn’t we do this with nearly any research writing? Mostly we see kids required to pull out the facts. But is that really the only reason why we’re reading in science? Sometimes don’t we read because we want to uncover the nuances of how great ideas are born and how great thinkers think? I think so. It’s going to be on my hot list to share next time I have audience.

Second story is from the NPR Science Friday site. I actually tuned in to watch a video about dancing babies (which is great, by the way) but this video caught my attention too.

 In this instance, what intrigued me was the various partnerships available for these students to engage in such authentic problem solving. Of course not all of our kids are lucky enough to have college professors and world-class museums at their finger tips, but I do think museums and community experts are more readily available than we might choose to recognize. Nonetheless, it’s an incredible story of how 2 high school kids took their questions from A to Z with the help of some incredible partnerships and a pretty cool website.