8 lessons ANY educator can learn from the science classroom

Today’s guest post is written by Matt Johnson, a third grade teacher at Boiling Springs Elementary School in Boiling Springs, S.C. Follow him on Twitter at @MattJohnson10 and at his website, MrScienceDude.com.
Curiosity. Planning. Learning through failure. The science classroom teaches lessons that any student -- or teacher! -- can learn from. (Flickr / woodleywonderworks)

Curiosity. Planning. Learning through failure. The science classroom teaches lessons that any student — or teacher! — can learn from. (Flickr / woodleywonderworks)

Louis Arthur Berman once said “A good teacher is a master of simplification and an enemy of simplism.”

Science teachers have the responsibility of explaining how the world works but any teacher, for that matter, has the mindset to simplify learning so that it’s possible for every student. But we also must make sure that our methods are engaging our students to the highest degree.

As a teacher of elementary science, I have created a list of lessons teachers of any subject can learn from the science classroom.

1. If you believe in science, like I do, you believe that there are certain laws that are always obeyed. – Stephen Hawking (Behavior Management):

“Why is the sky blue?” or “Why is the grass wet in the morning when it hasn’t rained?” are questions often asked in science class, but teachers also have students asking “Why?” when being instructed regarding classroom procedures.

A read-aloud my school is using this school year is titled “What If Everybody Did That?” This book explains why certain school rules exist such as no littering, low voice levels, and walking in the hallways. At the beginning of each school year, do you explain the “why” in your classroom rules?

2. Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result. – Oscar Wilde (Lesson Planning)

No (good) science teacher would ever mix two chemicals having never researched or previously conducted an experiment in front of/with students. Many experiments oftentimes do not work in class and in order to either to get students’ minds to thinking or to begin the research for the why, we have to have a Plan B that, unfortunately, that may not have the bells and whistles like our Plan A.

How many times has a lesson using WiFi or other technology suddenly become unavailable? What do many teachers do? They are seen scrambling around trying to make it work meanwhile losing precious instructional time that could have been prevented if an appropriate Plan B were in place.

3. No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong. – Albert Einstein (Successful Failure)

Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb would not have been possible if it weren’t for his 10,000 failed attempts. His response was that he did not fail. He just found 10,000 ways it wouldn’t work.

We, as teachers, cannot say that we tried that many times to find the best possible way to help a student reach his/her academic goals. We must not believe that students must learn the way we teach, but instead we must search through 10,000 possible learning methods in order to teach the unteachable and how they learn.

4. Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done. – Robert A. Heinlein (Collaboration)

In chemistry, the exact amount of specific ingredients is needed to create the perfect formula. Each ingredient is purposely included based on its chemical makeup. The ideal department and grade level of any school is made up of key individuals that have specific skills that are contributed in order for it to be effective. What’s YOUR “chemical makeup” and how is it affecting your collaborative efforts where you work?

5. Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge – Carl Sagan (Student Engagement)

Routines and procedures have their place in the classroom but how effective can a strategic effort towards shocking our students affect their engagement in our lessons? Many times a prediction towards a scientific demonstration that has previously been conducted may provide our students with a sense of awe and wonder if we secretly change up the factors. What factors in our day can we continuously leave our students guessing as to what will happen next?

6. Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing. – Wernher von Braun (Research)

The Internet has given everyone access to unlimited information at the touch of a button. “How do you make a volcano?” Easy, just Google it. But as teachers, we often answer all our students’ questions therefore taking away their sense of wonder.

When students ask you questions, how do you answer so that they may not have the complete answer but continue to allow their minds to think about what it is they seek?

7. Science may never come up with a better office communication system than the coffee break. – Earl Wilson (Parent Communication)

The science fair project has always been an assignment that gains criticism mainly from parents. If one child wins, then parents and students alike give credit to the child’s parent, whether verbally or non-verbally. The science fair is then viewed as unfair and without purpose.

But is it? How we communicate the purpose of any project is often depicted in the results that we receive. What’s also important is the manner and persistence at which we communicate with our students’ parents.

Try this for a science project; if you have a parent that is difficult to contact, try showing up and begin a conversation in his/her world — perhaps at their work, at the child’s football game, or at their place of worship. See if the lines of communication start to open.

8. The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. – Albert Einstein (Arts Integration)

When a science teacher teaches sound, it’s difficult not to use any musical instrument to demonstrate how pitch and volume may be changed. But integrating the arts shouldn’t end there.

You may not be an artsy educator, but there’s good news; you don’t have to be. Within your building someone is. Or better yet, why not ask your students how art, music and drama can be used to help them learn what you’re teaching?

If you implement any type of learning station in your instruction, create an arts station that students have freedom to create raps, mosaics, or short theater scripts to complement your lesson.

[reminder]Which of these lessons resonates with you most? Is there a lesson you would add to the list? [/reminder]

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