Science teachers have an exciting opportunity to teach kids about how science makes the world work. Unfortunately, reduced teaching budgets and apathy on the part of students sometimes makes it difficult to get students interested in topics like biology, earth science, anatomy, physics, and chemistry. Some teachers are now using techniques such as peer learning, role-playing, and incorporating current events in science lesson plans. These techniques help engage students and help them understand the importance of science. They also make it fun to teach scientific concepts and help students understand common topics in the scientific world.
Traditionally, teachers used the lecture format to teach children about science. One of the drawbacks to the lecture format is that it does not engage students in their learning. This teaching technique encourages rote memorization and note-taking instead of excitement about the world of science. Peer-to-peer teaching is when the students actually get involved in teaching each other about science. This is an active learning method that encourages students to discuss scientific topics, develop questions about the material, and work in teams to learn new information. Buzz groups, solution and critic groups, and affinity groups are just three of the ways to use peer-to-peer teaching in the classroom. When students work in buzz groups, they spend approximately 20 minutes studying a topic and gathering information. At the end of the session, one representative from each group presents information to the entire class. For solution and critic groups, the teacher assigns one group of students to gather information and give a presentation. A second group of students acts as the critic group by evaluating the presentation. Affinity groups work together outside of the classroom and then present their findings during normal class time. All of these techniques help students develop research and presentation skills that will help them in the science classroom as well as other areas of life.
The use of real-life case studies reinforces classroom learning. These scenarios are ideal for classes of any size, but they work best when each student has access to needed specialized equipment. Case studies should be relevant to students, as this will make it easier to engage them in learning. Case studies should also address timely topics, as students are likely to become disinterested when presented with a case study that is not relevant to today’s technology.
Current Events Tie-Ins
Some students do not enjoy science classes because they cannot imagine how they will ever use the information presented. Tying current events into science lectures and experiments is a great way to spark interest in the discussion at hand. One good example of a current event related to science is the BP oil spill. Teachers can use this current event to discuss the effects of the oil on the environment and on the wildlife in the affected areas. Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters are also ideal for inclusion in this type of discussion. Science teachers can even discuss these news topics and then introduce a lab activity on creating a tornado in a bottle or examining the effects of earthquakes. Once students are interested in a topic, they are more likely to ask questions about it and take a real interest in learning more.
Hands-On Activities with Follow-Up Work
Hands-on activities are a great way to introduce students to the world of science. Whether a chemistry teacher has students mixing chemicals in a lab or a physics teacher asks students to design and develop a physics experiment, these are excellent opportunities for learning. All hands-on activities should be followed by follow-up work, whether the teacher assigns an essay or asks students to complete a group project. Assignment questions should ask students to analyze the results of the activity and explain why a certain set of events may have occurred. These assignments reinforce learning and help students better understand scientific principles.
Written by Grace Ann Stanford