Science is Messy

"Messing about in science" is a way of saying explore, experience, and discover. 

Students learn about viscoelastic material behavior, such as strain rate dependence and creep, with silly putty.
Natural phenomena is marvelous and delightful and makes me curious about why others lose interest in science. We are all born scientists, using our senses to discover the world around us and learn how it behaves. Somewhere along the way some people "turn off" to science, either thinking it is too hard or not interesting. I never went that way.  Everyday is a new day to learn something, be amazed, find wonder. I am an environmental scientist by college degree, but am fascinated by all the scientific disciplines. As a child under the age of ten, I tried to start a freshwater pearl farm of mussels in the pond, I collected snowflakes on microscope slides to look at, I tried to grow pickles by watering cucumbers with pickle juice, and I built levees and dams to hold back spring snow melt. As a high school student, my favorite courses were literature courses; the lecture-style science classes of my day held no interest for me. My love of science was reawakened in college with demonstrative and active classes, classes that involved multiple senses.
Students learn about limiting reactants and mole ratios with microscale rockets.
"Messing about in science" would be play if it were not for the probing questions asked and the requisite reflecting. It could be that "messing about" maintains scientific curiosity in foundation curriculum and its absence in higher grades, with the focus on memorization and worksheets dampens the air of scientific intrigue. Don't get me wrong - memorization and calculation practice are necessary in teaching science, but the class time allotment afforded them must be balanced with concentrated analysis of observations. And the observations that make the biggest impact are the ones students make for themselves; it gives them ownership of the learning and strengthens their investment.

It is the role of the adult to guide the student's critical thinking, provide penetrating questions, and guard against the activity deteriorating into simple play. It's important to know when and how to intervene and when to allow the students space. "Messing about" lays the foundation for later learning while hooking the student with authentic experiences.

The seminal article by David Hawkins about making visible the thinking and ideas of students. 

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