Importance of Science Skills
© Teresa Bondora-Revere
I had a love-hate relationship with science for most of my life. Growing up, I loved science but as I got into high school I quickly learned to fear science. Because of this fear, I didn't take the courses I needed to do well in any chosen science field. But that couldn't take away my love for science. And alas, the love won and I enrolled in course after course in college. But without the chemistry background I just couldn't keep the 4.0 GPA required for medical school. When I chose my career, I knew it would be science and decided to teach. I taught high school and wound up with the kids others didn't want to teach. I taught the learning disabled, ADD and slow kids. And loved it. I learned that I had a real gift for working with these kids and helping them learn not to fear but to excel in science. I went back to college and took the three chemistry and the three physics courses of which I was so afraid. After 8 years teaching I learned the downside of public schools and how hard it is to teach so many with so little time and so few resources. But I also learned in my 8 years in college and 8 years in teaching, why science is such a daunting subject for most people. Now, as a homeschooling mom, I set my sights on helping homeschoolers to love and excel in science.
The problem is skills.
For most people, when they think of science, they think of what is called the content. Things like dinosaurs, spiders, weather, the body, etc, is what most people focus on teaching their children. But actually, science is two-sided. Most subjects have the knowledge base and some have a skills base. But in science, the skills set is much larger and much more important than in most other subjects. Let's look at some examples.
In English we had to diagram sentences. In college the ability to diagram sentences wasn't that important. We did need to know how to write well, creatively, with correct grammar and punctuation. So we focus on and teach this to our children. In math, our children must learn how to use a compass, protractor and graphing calculator. And we teach them these skills. But when it comes to the one subject that is mostly an active and "doing" subject, where are the skills?
I believe that is why science seems so difficult to most of us. We were given the content but not the skills we needed to do well. And of course add to that, the fact that the most basic of all science concepts, the Periodic Table of Elements, was kept as this highly guarded secret until we were in high school. And add the fact that the science text books are so dumbed down that a kindergarten child could do a 5 th grader's homework and you have the perfect recipe for an unprepared student.
So why does science look so hard? Let me count the ways! When one opens a science book, one sees diagrams that look terribly daunting. And look at all those terms that are long and make no sense. Where do they get this stuff? And step into a science classroom. This crazy table of elements and atoms hanging on the wall and clinical stuff everywhere, Ooh, enough to make you run for the hills! (or the outback in this case!)
So what if we put a periodic table of elements on the wall for our toddlers? And what if we mentioned it from time to time with coins, saying this is made of silver and here it is on the table of elements. What if we started teaching our children the roots of Greek and Latin in conversation, especially the words used most in science? And what if we started teaching them diagramming and graphing skills at the tender age of 4? Do you think they would ever be afraid of science? If we taught them how to write critically, to observe, infer, among other skills, do think they would do well in science? I know they would. I know that they would continue their fascination with the world around them because there would be no fear, no reason to stop learning. And I believe that if they have an interest in science, they will continue that interest into college, military, or life and will become what they dream to be. And they will pass this love of science on to their children, teaching them in this way.
In addition to the content of science, I believe that if we teach our children the skills of science and if we foster their curiosity about the world around them and show no fear, if we teach them chemistry skills and content throughout childhood, we can change the face of science for our children. Slowly we can stop the spread of elitism in the field of science and we can spread the knowledge that science is for everyone!
Teresa Bondora-Revere is a homeschool mother of two. She lives in Mobile, Alabama, USA where she is working on a book on How To Teach Science. She hosts an on-line workshop on How To Teach Science. You can visit her on-line at www.steelcreek.com
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