Rubber Duckies and Scientific Literacy

On Being Able To Evaluate News Sources
"By any measure, the average American is not scientifically literate, even with a college degree" (Robert Hazen)
Helping young students become scientifically literate in our standards-driven education system takes active research. Its not something the student understands the need for, and explaining the reasons does not help motivate them toward literacy. Simply telling a student that understanding the material will help him or her understand daily events and make him or her an educated voter does not pass the teenager muster test.  It helps more, whenever possible, to insert discussions of current events into the lessons. Major events, such as a tsunami, earthquake, nuclear meltdown, or hurricane are extreme examples that are easy to tie in, but fortunately these are not daily events. In addition, they do not tie into every science curriculum.

Literacy is not just showing the students examples of science in your daily life, it is more about being able to differentiate between good and poor science reporting.

Teaching a new curriculum each year complicates finding examples of good and not-so-good science articles, though textbooks often unintentionally give examples of errors in scienctific understandings.

When teaching a unit on ocean currents, and oceanography is a new course to my teaching, I remembered the spill of bathtub toys and how they made an excellent study in ocean currents. Looking for an article online, I came across a wonderful module that discussed the Nike shoe "drifters", the bathtub floatees "drifters" and had articles about the bathtub toys for evaluating. I felt I had been given a gift. Even though the data was old, and students find it difficult to relate to data older than they are, it was all packaged up and ready for me to use. I was so glad I did the search for the article and came across this site.

What I need to do is come up with more examples like this. Its easy to find scientific articles in the daily news; the trick is to find time to evaluate them and present them to the students. Having a flipped class eases the time constraints. Since lectures are delivered after school, discussions about how well a study was done, or how science is affecting national policy, can occur in class. We can also spend more time on lab techniques, including asking questions and critical thinking.

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