It is likely in the weeks ahead, my family and I will be community, house, and school hunting. I am sure one of the main things we’ll be looking for is an elementary school where science (as well as THE ARTS) are highly valued and LOVED by teachers and students alike. A recent issue of TIME magazine asserted:
Children love to explore the natural world but by fourth grade, we squash their curiosity with the way we teach science.
I have to say that my own 2nd grader’s experiences with science in school this year have been VERY poor, except for his science fair project which was a parent-led (rather than teacher-led) activity.
I acknowledge that we don’t need every child in school today to become CISCO certified or become a scientist or engineer. But I certainly think that in the schools I work with and am in, we could be doing a MUCH better job getting kids excited about science and learning in general. For most practical purposes, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that SCHOOL IS NOW OVER in many Texas districts although classes will still be held for several more weeks. Why? Because the statewide testing is over, of course. We have cultivated a mentality in public education today, which is now widespread, that holds our sole purpose for going to school is to take tests. This is called a teleological (or instrumental) educational focus I think. I want my children to be in classrooms where teachers keep on learning and growing with students even after the tests are over, because they understand that they are in school for reasons far more important and noble than test preparation and worksheet completion.
Science experiments have instrumental rationales, of course, but I think there is also a lot of intrinsic motivation that students can have for doing them. Of course, many kids distain the thought of actually dissecting a frog or a pig. But I guarantee you that those experiments are much more educative for those students than all the worksheet activities they did in class all year!
Yes, we need to be doing a better job empowering kids in schools to follow their curiosities and explore their world through science. Hopefully in the weeks and months to come, we’ll find a school where this value is already part of the culture, wherever we end up going.
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