Think back to your HS science class days. The class probably looked something like this:
- The teacher introduces a new unit by giving you notes, then assigns HW that night based on what you just learned.
- The next class, you turn in your HW and then take a short quiz on what you learned last class.
- The teacher gives more notes, which are slightly more in-depth and complicated than last time, and gives HW again.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 as necessary.
- The teacher has you perform a lab that illustrates what you have been learning.
- You take a test on the unit.
I have to be honest, I am guilty of following this plan. As a teacher, I would find activities and labs that would help the students better understand the material that I have already taught to them. There were a lot of lightbulbs going on during the lab because now students could finally see why what they had been learning was important.
But if the lab is so important to the learning, why did I leave it until the end of the unit?
I decided to rearrange the order of some of the items above. I am going to activity the heck out of my class. We are going to start the unit with the activity and the labs. My hope is this will generate questions from the students about WHY something has occurred. The WHY is what we are always seeking in education and yet we are satisfied with an OH, as in ‘OH, I get it now.”
I understand that sitting quietly and taking notes while someone is speaking is an important skill. However, if you think about the average person in the average job, they probably spend maybe ONE hour a day doing that. We ask kids to do it for SEVEN! If I told you that your job would be to sit in a room all day and listen to other people talk for 7 hours a day, I guarantee you would be dusting off the resume and looking for a different employer.
School, and science especially, needs to be about doing. Even if the activity is a little crazy or boring we are going to be DOING things during class this year.