Engaging Brains

Waking Up End-Of-Summer Brains

Back to school week had just two days of classes so my plan for day two was a simple wake-up-the-brain lecture and response; with a four-day weekend coming up and student schedules still in fluctuation I don't want to start an activity.

Most of my students don't want to be in a science class. Lucky me gets to engage with the students who are less than thrilled about school and science. Day one students wrote a couple sentences on why they were taking the course (physical science or oceanography) and what they hoped to gain from the course.

When students ask me "why do I need to know this? I'm not going to be a [scientist/chemist/physicist]" I usually respond with "you are making new neuron connections" and "don't close doors of opportunities". I might also talk about being an educated voter, etc., etc... My response is often clumsy, though, so when I found Jared Diamond's response to this question I decided to steal it; he is much more eloquent than I am.

As I read Jared Diamond's suggestions I amplified with specific questions or examples:

  1. How did you decide what to wear today? What to bring to school? How did you decide on what classes to take? In your desire to be successful, you make choices based on scientific problem-solving methods. 
  2. If you were the town public works director, how would you decide how to fertilize the ball fields? What if you were one of the officials in this pesticide vs. bees case? 
  3. How will you know which candidate is the one you want to vote for? How will you decide which way to vote on ballot issues?
  4. Be supportive of your fellow students who want to focus on a science career.
I closed this class by returning to the students the writing they had done the previous day about why they were taking the course, and directing them to add more to the work based on what we had just discussed.

1 comment:

Cathy M said...

I love it! As a teacher of 9th grade Earth science and physics, I get the question/comment all the time: “Why do we have to learn this? What does this have to do with my life? I hate science!” I always tell them, “You should learn about your world – after all, you live in it!” I expand on this theme during many class discussions and offhand comments throughout the days. As far as doing science every day, thinking scientifically and using the scientific method of solving a problem, I enjoyed the line in Jared Diamond’s “Why Study Science?” that says, “every one of us has to be able to think scientifically and to understand some science to get through our lives.” I explain to my students how every day they each use the “scientific method” over and over again. I often use an example of going shopping to buy a pair of jeans, and discuss all of the “scientific” thought processes involved with that task. Next year I believe I too will steal Jared Diamond’s response.