Saturday, July 30, 2011

Real World Science

Not all of the students in my chemistry class will be going on to earn a technical degree in college. Although understanding the intricacies of balancing equations, predicting the products of reactions, and carefully following the scientific method is important for these students, they also need to learn to be educated consumers of scientific information. As new technology evolves, I want my students to have the combination of background knowledge and research skills that will allow them to research and understand scientific breakthroughs throughout their adult lives.

Students are constantly searching for ways they will use what they learn in the “real world.” It is what we are preparing them for, after all! Finding real world applications for students as often as possible. It is hard for many students to find the drive and motivation to study and learn about a subject when there is no obvious connection to their immediate lives.

Joann is discussing nanotechnology resources this week on the Gateway. The resources she selected will help students understand how the science of nanotechnology works in products they use every day. These are some great ideas for bringing real world applications of chemistry to your students. Nanotechnology is one example of a cutting-edge use of science in industry, and there are plenty more examples you can relate to all different disciplines of science. What are some ways to incorporate new technology and current scientific events into the science classroom?

A simple way to relate science topics to students’ lives is to begin each unit with a short-term student directed project related to the particular topic of study. Doing this will help students invest a little time on the topic, creating more interest when you start teaching about it. You could also choose to conclude a unit with the same type of project instead. This will allow students to use their knowledge and find their own real world connections.

Much like social studies teachers emphasize the importance of discussing current events, science teachers can set aside time to talk about current events in science. Chemistry is advancing all different kinds of cutting-edge technology that is important in students’ lives. Students might be surprised by the cool things happening in science! Having a time to discuss current scientific events could be a nice addition for many science classrooms.

It is fun to watch movies and television shows that depict technology of the future, and it can be even more fun to find out what types of futuristic technologies are already here. Prime time television is full of “science,” but often it can be hard to decipher between fact and fiction. One neat project idea for a chemistry or biology class would allow students to find examples of science on TV. Some good places to look are in shows about crime, detectives, and the legal system. CSI and Law & Order are a couple that come to mind. Once students find ideas, create a class list of topics they can research. Each student or group of students would be required to pick a topic and research whether or not their chosen technology is used in the real world. If the technology is not yet available, they can present the type of research and testing that is taking place in order to make that technology a reality.

Here are some examples of project ideas that students can choose from:

Create a short documentary about the history of the technology in question.

Stage a debate about the ethics surrounding the technology.

Create a visual comparison of the technology to previous technology.

Design a visual/hands-on/multisensory explanation of the technology.

Direct a commercial touting the benefits of the technology.

Design and carry out an experiment to compare or demonstrate a technology.

Create lesson plans to teach younger students about the topic.

When students present their findings (creatively, of course), they should find ways to connect their research to what they have been learning in class. Aha! This is how they will use science in the real world!

~Peggy's Corner - July 27, 2011~

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