Science is No Heap of Stones
We are now in the age of Google and Apple, where information can be accessed from your phone, your watch, or even your family room by saying “Hey Alexa” (or whatever name your home assistant goes by). What that means is that the facts are at our fingertips. But what do we do with them once our computers give us the answer? This is the place where learning skills come into play: critical thinking, evaluating, problem solving, brainstorming, innovating, etc.
As a science educator, I look around and see so many people disconnected from science, scientific thinking, questioning, and in depth understanding. Scientists have long understood that science is more than just facts.
French Philosopher Poincaré 1905
National Research Council [NRC] 2012, Chapter 11
4th Grade: 4b. Students know how to identify common rock forming minerals (including quartz, calcite, feldspar, mica, and hornblende) and ore minerals by using a table of diagnostic properties.
PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter
Measurements of a variety of properties can be used to identify materials.
The first focuses on the facts about minerals and only the properties relevant to identifying those minerals.
The second teaches students that a variety of materials (rocks, liquids, powders, anything) can be identified by their properties. This builds a student’s foundational knowledge and if they become interested in geology they can use it to learn about types of minerals, but if they become a materials engineer they can use it to choose the best building materials, and if they become a chef they could use it to tell the difference between baking soda and cream of tartar.
Facts are still important. How would you teach about the properties of matter without using something as an example? But ultimately the skill of evaluating material properties can be applied to any situation regardless of whether it was originally taught with a focus on minerals or kitchen ingredients. Environmental Volunteers’ curriculum spends a lot of time working on those skills: interpreting scientific data, articulating what you have learned and supporting it with evidence, critical thinking, problem solving, and more. We don’t have time to teach all the facts, but we can help make sure our students know what to do with any fact they may learn throughout their lives.