Five reasons we love science

Summer can be a time of rest and renewal and an opportunity for teachers to fit in professional pursuits like reading that new book, taking a workshop, or conducting an in-depth study. In the July 2011 issue of NSTA’s Book Beat, we invite readers to take a step back to reflect and reconnect with a few of the many reasons to love science and science teaching. Click over to read the full July issue, where you can also download this month’s free lessons and chapters.
1. Science Has Stories
Stories can be wonderful teaching tools, and science has stories galore—from children’s books about science to case studies by scientists. Children’s trade books linked to science have the power to draw students in to explore, question, discuss, and investigate. Karen Ansberry and Emily Morgan’s Picture-Perfect Science Lessons (grades 3–6) presents powerful strategies for connecting reading and science in a natural way in the elementary classroom. “Dr. Xargle’s Book of Earthlets” engages students through reading a children’s book that has memorable and sometimes hilarious examples of inferences versus observations. Students then practice those skills through several hands-on activities. For grades K–8, Richard Konicek-Moran’s Everyday Science Mysteries presents students with stories about a mystery from everyday life that science can help them solve. “The Little Tent That Cried” helps students see the water cycle in a natural situation and then suggests activities to give them a deeper understanding of evaporation, condensation, and humidity. Start With a Story: The Case Study Method of Teaching College Science, edited by Clyde Herreid, is chock full of case stories that will engross college students, including “Of Mammoths and Men: A Case Study in Extinction.”
2. Science Has Mysteries
Students of science often start delving into a topic after encountering a puzzling or confusing event. Everyday Science Mysteries books use perplexing everyday events to engage students and invite them to investigate what’s going on in the “story.” The baffling and the unfamiliar can intrigue students and spur them to take on the role of investigators. In “Exploring the Mysteries of Fingerprints” from John Eichinger’s Activities Linking Science With Math, K–4, students use investigative techniques to identify and classify their fingerprints based on shape before they collect and classify fingerprints from classroom surfaces after predicting likely locations. A biology mystery from Thomas O’Brien’s Even More Brain-Powered Science titled “Resurrection Plant: Making Science Come Alive!” has students observing and studying a “resurrection plant” to investigate why these dry-looking, fernlike plants appear to come back to life when placed in water. The discrepant events in all three books of the Brain-Powered Science Series are sure to motivate the sleuths in your class.
3. Science Can Make Us Laugh
Using humor in science teaching can be a good way to lighten up the classroom atmosphere while still keeping the focus on learning goals. Take a cue from NSTA Press author Bill Robertson, who artfully weaves humor and serious science content in his Stop Faking It! Series. You’re always in for a treat with a Stop Faking It! book, and now there are nine to choose from.  From Robertson’s irreverent humor interspersed among the solid science explanations and activities to clever cartoons by illustrator Brian Diskin, you can laugh your way to better understanding of physics from Force and Motion to Chemistry Basics. Check out “Round and Round and Round in the Circle Game” from Force and Motion: Stop Faking It! for text and illustrations sure to give you a chuckle or two. Or explore the ingenious “Metaphysical Illustrations” by award-winning artist Tomas Bunk in Quantoons (grades 9–12), by Arthur Eisenkraft, and Larry Kirkpatrick. The book combines challenging physics questions with intricate drawings in a collection of problems that ran in Quantum magazine. Feast your eyes on the clever text and art in “Fun With Liquid Nitrogen” and “Laser Levitation.” It’s good to laugh while you learn!
4. Science Challenges Us
Science teachers love the challenge that studying science brings, from exploring a nearby stream to pondering the significance of the latest fossil finds from Colorado or China. Crafting just the right lesson for the group of students in your classroom is another challenge that science teachers take on every day. For an inspirational read on how one talented teacher approaches this challenge, read Cary Sneider’s chapter on “Examining Students’ Work” from J Myron Atkin and Janet Coffey’s Everyday Assessment in the Science Classroom. You’ll come away from this thoughtful piece with new insights about course adjustments you could make that will enhance you and your students’ learning experiences.
5. Science Is Everywhere
In her classic teacher resource Ten-Minute Field Trips, Helen Ross Russell writes that “youngsters who learn to ask questions, observe, set up possible answers, experiment, keep records, and think independently will grow up finding life challenging and worthwhile. They will also have the ability to adapt to a changing world.” Science teachers help children see that science is all around them and that even the smallest patch of grass or pavement can reveal volumes about their world. To reconnect with your inner explorer and consider new ways to use the school grounds as a teaching laboratory for young scientists, read Russell’s chapter “Of the Value of Saying ‘I Don’t Know.’” Check out the free sample chapters of Schoolyard Science, Inside-Out, and Outdoor Science for more practical ways you could incorporate brief outdoor treks into your science lessons.

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