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Seven Mistakes Made in Teaching Science

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Joined: 23 Apr 2007
Posts: 7
Location: San Luis Obispo, CA

PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2008 9:59 pm    Post subject: Seven Mistakes Made in Teaching Science Reply with quote

Hey there!

Have you made THESE mistakes? This is part of a talk I gave to several homeschooling conferences over the past three months (I think there were seven of them, from Minnesota to Pennsylvania to Florida to Washington state!), and I thought you might find something of value here. If you want the full article, please refer to the link at the bottom.

Happy Summer!

The Seven Biggest Mistakes Made
in Teaching Homeschool Science
And What to Do About Them

by Aurora Lipper, owner of Supercharged Science

Did you have a teacher that really had an impact on you? Remember the excitement? Or the thrill you felt when you taught something to someone else and they really got it?

First, let me thank you for your commitment to education – a value that is high enough for you that you are either homeschooling your child or considering it.

In this article, I am going to share with you some of the common mistakes that homeschool educators often make. If you’ve fallen prey to one or more of these, it simply means that no one told you about them yet. Once you know, you can then focus on solutions. Or, perhaps you’ll find that you are already on track, and this may reaffirm that you are headed in the right direction. Are you ready? Let’s begin.

Mistake #1. Failure to make an impact.
In today’s world, we’re so inundated with information that in order to really teach something new, you need to get someone’s attention. Think about food commercials. Advertisers first focus on getting you hooked, catching your eye – before they ever deliver their real message. And that’s what you need to do when teaching science.

You’ve got stack the deck with things that inspire natural curiosity. Hand them a bucket and ask them to tilt it completely sideways without a single drop of water coming out. (When you hand them the bucket, don’t touch the handle. Just hand it over from the bottom. Let them make that jump themselves.)

How do you know when you’re doing this right? You know you’ve made an impact when your kid’s entire body says, “WOW!”, complete with the eye bulge, slack-jaw, blank stare that accompany this universal state of brain-pretzel. So how do you do that?

Easy. Just do the opposite of what they currently expect from you. If you’re as neat as a pin, slosh a bit of water on the floor while slinging a bucketful around your head, asking them what they know about g-force and physics. If you’re shy about electricity, poke a paperclip and a penny into a juicy lemon and ask them to stick their tongue on both contacts, because you’re not sure what will happen.

Get and do things that are different enough to get their brain pumping and to put the fun back into it for you, too. If you’re planning to demonstrate the reaction of baking soda and vinegar (which produces carbon dioxide gas, the same stuff you exhale), first ask your kid, “Have you ever burped before?”

Mistake #2. Give away the ending.
How often in textbooks or classrooms have you seen this one? Every detail in the project is outlined step-by-step, leaving no room for questions, speculation, or new ideas. No scientist in their right mind will design, set up, and execute a scientific experiment if they already know the ending!

This mistake often has the undertone of being in a rush. Learning takes time, and it needs to go through different stages to make a lasting impression. Just as a farmer can’t plant crops too late in the season, then try to rush them to grow, certain aspects of learning takes time.

For real learning that lasts, your child needs to focus on activities that allow the natural process of discovery, wonder, and exploration. During this process, questions formulate, ideas flow, and true learning takes place from the inside out. Short-cutting this process (by outlining exactly what to do and how to do it) will kill your child’s passion for science, which is defined as “the effort to discover and understand how the physical world works”.

When a kid asks, “Do you think this will work?” remember that it’s just a test. What they’re really asking is, “Can I try it?” To which you can confidently answer, “I don’t know. Try it!”

To continue our example of the baking-soda-and-vinegar reaction: After you’ve asked your child about burping, show them the chemical reaction and ask them about the bubbles they see rising out of the cup. (Solid, liquid, or gas?) Then casually ask, “What if we do this again, but this time put the lid on?”

Mistake #3. No space for the job.
Once your child excited enough about something that they want to take it and run, your next task is to give them what they need!

Now, kids need their own space. However, parents worldwide go crazy with the pack-rat syndrome kids seems to have. Here’s a solution to make both parties happy.

In a corner, set up a table that’s all theirs. No touching. This is for two important reasons: first, it’s a lesson in organization waiting to happen. When they whine to you that they can’t find something, you can honestly shrug and say with empathy, “Gosh, I haven’t seen it – it’s not my space. What are you going to do?” The second reason is more subtle, but even more important. How safe will your kid feel discovering and exploring, creating and building if you whirlwind through there every so often and clean it up?

Make sure this kid-zone has boundaries, or it will take over your house. For instance, throw down a rug under the table. Now, anything that floats off the rug is yours to keep. And when company comes over, the flowery tablecloth goes over the whole shebang.

To continue with our chemistry lesson example, tell your kid to explore this idea outside.

Mistake #4. Withholding the tools.
So often, we believe that by reading lots of books filled packed with knowledge, we will instantly understand everything and get a real education.

While this may work for other subjects, science is one that needs tools, equipment, and space. This is the one subject where books are not only a source of inspiration, but can also be used as stepstools, ramps, inclined planes, tunnels, weights, and platforms.

Remember the table you’re setting up? Great homeschool families stash three baskets underneath. Let’s peek inside:
• Basket 1. Materials. paper, rubber bands, straws, string, paper clips, brass fasteners, balloons, popsicle sticks (two different sizes), index cards, skewers, and clothespins.
• Basket 2. Tools. Clear, masking, duct, electrical, and packing tape. Stapler, hole punch, (low-temp) hot glue gun, and scissors.
• Basket 3. Clean Junk. Water bottles, berry baskets, soda bottles, six-pack ring holders, packing foam (big pieces are great), film canisters, egg cartons, soup cans, milk jug tops, yogurt lids, butter tubs, and coffee tins.

Arm your table with these and stand back… way back. Your child will race in with excitement now that you’ve set up an environment what supports their freedom to create and build.

Since 1996, Aurora Lipper has been helping families learn science. As a mechanical engineer, university instructor, pilot, astronomer, and rocket scientist, Aurora can transform toilet paper tubes into real working radios and make laser light shows from Tupperware.

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Joined: 02 Jan 2008
Posts: 214

PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2008 10:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's great info. Thanks!
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Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: S.Indiana

PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 7:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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