Instructional Strategies for Science to Keep Learning Fun
Using the right instructional strategies for science can help students to stay interested in science even after elementary school (where it is usually a favorite subject among students). Science is a subject that is near and dear to me. When I was a kid, I loved learning about science. I didn’t just pay attention during science class. I actively sought out scientific knowledge on my own. I loved reading encyclopedias and any books about science that I could get my hands on. I craved knowledge about how the world around me worked. I think a lot of students today also have a similar interest in science. It’s too bad that science is often treated as something less than a core subject in many elementary classrooms.
Sure, there is a big push from some powers to get more STEM and STEAM learning rolling, but what about some tips for getting all of that science knowledge to stick with kids? Just doing activities doesn’t get them ready for standardized tests.
Thoughts on How to Teach Science
One of my favorite subjects to teach is science. I’ve always had an interest in it since I was a very young child. It only made sense that I’d get my certification to teach it up through at least the middle school level. If you ask me, it is the subject that most lends itself to “fun” lessons that can actually teach the students a ton of important information. As I looked around the internet, I was surprised to see that there really wasn’t all that much specifically written about actual instruction strategies for teaching science. I thought it might be fun to look at what gets and keeps our students interested in learning about science.
Of course, I’ve also taught at the elementary level. I’ve got to admit that I was sad to learn that in many schools, science, along with social studies takes a back seat to the BIG TWO subjects, reading and math. I’ve never quite understood this since science is a subject that easily ties into both of these subjects. It is also a subject that is often tested by “the state” at the secondary level. I guess it all comes down to available time during the school day though.
Anyway, this post isn’t meant to be a rant (but please DO feel free to comment at the bottom). What I’d like to do here is look for strategies that can be used to keep students interested in science. Most of them do have a natural love of science at the elementary level. It seems to me that we should be taking better advantage of that natural interest. How can we foster it and encourage the natural curiosity that students have about the world around them? Here are a few ideas (once again, PLEASE leave your comments and suggestions about what has worked for you)!
- Science needs to be more than an afterthought in school curriculums (this is referring mostly to the elementary level). Students need to be taught science content, scientific processes and the nature of scientific inquiry, and the importance of how science influences so much of our life every day. This cannot be put off until the middle and high school level.
- The world around us is absolutely FILLED with examples of how science influences us. You could spend a month just examining how scientific discoveries led up to the iPhones and tablets your students use so often during the day. Use these real world examples.
- Let students get their hands dirty. Hands on is so important for learning science. Many students lose their love of science right around the time all of the learning starts to come strictly out of a book. If you are teaching a class without some type of laboratory component built in, try to find SOME way to get the students active, even if it is something very simple. Learning a formula is fine, but seeing it in action is much more powerful.
- Don’t skim over the scientific method. Remember that humans didn’t always understand this kind of thinking. It helped us to come out of the Dark Ages. Children are naturally curious, but they need some direction and instruction on how to best figure things out and make discoveries.
- It might be because we lack instructional time, but students are often flooded with definitions and theories in science classes. Make an effort to show how science has evolved. Get students excited about where it could take us. Help them to realize that THEY could be part of those exciting possibilities.
- Address scientific misconceptions. Students come up with theories about how things in the world “work” as they live their day to day lives. If you start asking them questions and asking them about things they “know”, you might be amazed, if not amused. Sometimes, these misconceptions can lead to some very interesting lessons. Just as an example, have your class write down an explanation of something simple, like why we have seasons, or why we aren’t buried under miles of dead leaves and animal carcasses after all of this time. You might assume that they know this, but you might be very surprised. Feel free to come up with your own questions based on things that “everybody knows” about the world. I hope you’ll share it below in the comments! One of my best 8th grade students once insisted that the Earth goes around the Sun once every day. She was absolutely sure of it. That definitely led to some discussion because it turned out that she wasn’t the only one in the class who believed that was true.