Confronting the Denial of Science
According to some, the earth is flat and the moon is a hologram. Most of us laugh or shake our heads at the kind of willful ignorance necessary to believe these ridiculous claims that fly in the face of scientific consensus. Science though, or at least some scientific findings, seem to be increasingly under attack. Maybe it’s because of the political implications of certain fields of study. Maybe it’s because the news outlets so often put out non-consensus fad research studies like “Getting Healthy With the Werewolf Diet“, “Spider-Man Can’t Be Real” or “Older Workers Are More Experienced” (all real studies). Hey, I question the scientists who proposed those too. Or maybe, as I suspect, it might have something to do with how instruct we students in science and other STEM topics.
In the world of Google and Siri, knowing content is less important than knowing how best to seek, measure and utilize information. Knowing that the sun is about 93 million miles away is nice, but these aren’t the skills we should be teaching. We shouldn’t teach flash programming, not only because it’s dying and obsolete. We shouldn’t teach it because we don’t know what technology or information will be needed in 10 or 15 years. Remember the 1st iPhone only came out 10 years ago. We need to be addressing the necessary 21st-century skills that students of today and tomorrow need. That means developing creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking skills through project or problem-based learning opportunities. I’ll get more into that in another post.
Ultimately, we need to teach students to research properly maybe by using Google Advanced Searching and Google Scholar. Also, we to teach how to properly evaluate resources. Common Sense Education has some great news and media literacy resources available. They could also take NPR’s fake news test. It comes down to having students understand that science and learning are not about a few facts but about a method of exploring and gaining new knowledge. Teach that method and teach the value of consensus of thought rather than relying on one spotty research study showing non-causal links about whatever science-based boogeyman has you cornered.
Modeling & Inquiry
The best type of science learning is through experimentation and modeling the scientific method, but that can get a little expensive or dangerous in a classrrom. So here are a few tools to help with that.
- NYSci Apps – 5 apps from the NY Hall of Science that are great for modeling classroom math and science. Playground Physics is my particular favorite where you can turn swinging or playing ball into an exploration of force, energy, or velocity. They have included lessons
- Nova Labs – Apart from being a great series on PBS, Nova also 6 great labs ranging from evolution to cyber security.
- TinyBop – Explore various scientific fields with your toddler through these 14 different apps.
- Stephen Hawking’s Snapshots of the Universe – You can explore the vast reaches of outer space or the cramped space on a subway car with deeper dives that are appropriate for older students.
- Theodore Grey Elements – If there is a fancier and more fun version of the periodic table than this, I want to see it.
- NASA Visualization Explorer – Who can teach more about research in space than NASA?
Labster – You can simulate 3D virtual laboratory conditions with high school students.
- Phet Simulations – These simulations are simpler, but they’re also free.
- Algodoo -This is another solid 2-D simulator.
- Radix Explorer – MIT made a fun adventure-like game for high-school math and biology students.
- Smithsonian Idea Labs – There aren’t a lot of interactives, but sizing up the universe is a good way to introduce students to the vastness of space.
- Project Noah – Take your nature walks to the next level.
- Minecraft: Education Edition – You can model biomes, engineering concepts, or create a sustainable community or city. It’s really as open as you want it to be.
Information & Assessment
Sometimes you do need to present information or test student knowledge, so at least make it fun and interesting.
- Classify It! – This is a really fun way to assess student abilities to classify living organisms across varying levels.
- Kids Discover Apps – They have 24 apps covering a broad range of science and social studies concepts.
- Discovery Education – The videos are the reason to visit, but their new Science TechBook is the reason to stay.
- Legends of Learning – This site curates a number of science games that are mostly meant for reviewing and assessing science content that was already taught.
- Meet Science – These 4 apps have games, quizzes, info, and experiment ideas.
- BrainPOP Science – There are a lot of reasons BrainPOP is great. See what’s new.
- Flocabulary. Science – Hip-Hop videos and tools for science instruction. See all they have to offer.
- Khan Academy – Yes, they also do science and engineering for high school students.
- Crash Course – These fun and educational YouTube videos cover a broad range of content.
Education is not about learning facts, but the training of the mind to think!