Teaching Science

Dear Reader,

This article appeared in a local paper. It is an interview with the head of science education for Massachusetts. I think a lot of what she says are things that we homeschoolers can agree with. It seems like a no-brainer to me to notice that kids prefer hands-on experiments to lectures and preparing for standardized tests.

She observes that some classes have gotten so big, due to budgetary constraints, that they can no longer safely do experiments. For homeschoolers, I think we struggle with the opposite, how to do experiments effectively with only a few students. I think about this some but at my kids’ ages (the oldest is 10) we can still do most of what we want at home with common supplies. I hope that when they are high school age that we can find outside science classes, maybe at a community college, to send them to. There seem to be a lot of options that way around here and by the time they are older I expect there to be even more.

The one observation I really liked but that surprised me was when she said,

“Fifteen-year-olds are not very interested in a chloroplast but are in awe of a 100-year-old tree towering above them. Eventually, you can make the connection between the two but there’s not much time to get through the standards that will be tested in the biology MCAS to do both well, so the focus tends to be on the chloroplast and not the tree.

In an introductory course, I would like to have the students have the awe factor first.”

Are any bells going off in your head? This sounds like Charlotte Mason’s approach to me. Start with the  big things, observe nature. Develop their sense of awe. The specifics, the little details, can come much later. I am wondering though if 15 is still at the awe stage, when do the chloroplasts come? Or maybe not every kid will get there before college level? I’d love to hear how homeschoolers with older kids have dealt with this. When do you leave just nature study for something for formalized? And how in depth do you get while they are still homeschooling?


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