Take a bit of time to reflect on your own experience with learning Science. What do you remember most about the Science instruction you had?
When I was growing up science was always my favorite subject in school. I had a great love of the outdoors and learning more about living things. I remember always having a science textbook as a base of most of my instruction in middle school and high school. The days we had guests, went on field trips, and did hands-on experiments were always my favorite days. I remember I connected best with the science topics when my instructor had great enthusiasm and knowledge of the subject matter.
What do you remember fondly?
I had so many wonderful and vivid memories from my science classes. I recall in second grade I did a project on red foxes. I did my own research and created a model of an underground burrow with the fox inside. I was so proud of the project! Studying the planets was another fun topic in grade school. We visited a planetarium as a field trip to coincide with the unit. In elementary school there was a naturalist from the DNR who would come to talk to us about local species. In middle school I remember we learned about the PH scale and tested different liquids to see if they were an acid or base. I really enjoyed this experiment because at the time it made me feel like a “real chemist.”
What do you recall that was less than enjoyable? I remember in 7th grade we got to move into the science lab for class. I was so excited because we would be working on experiments involving chemistry and physics. I remember we had a huge textbook and large packets we would have the whole week to fill out. This was very disappointing. I don’t really remember much about middle school science. I think this was because we used our textbooks as the base of instruction and that did not interest me.
What impact has this had on your own teaching?
In my own teaching I have tried to rely less on textbook readings and worksheets. I have found that like myself students love to create projects based on their interests. They also love conducting experiments and playing games to help them learn vocabulary and concepts.
What do you remember most about the Science instruction you had?
The Science instruction that I mostly had was writing in a Science notebook and learning through the textbook. I remember learning through the FOSS kits and getting to practice our learning through experiments. Those were my favorite days of learning. Our Science instruction was very guided and structured where we didn't have a lot of creativity when experimenting.
What do you remember fondly?
I mostly remember Elementary Science and my High School Science courses, because we were more hands-on at those ages. I really remember Biology in high school, because we were studying life all around the world. I loved that we were able to get out into nature and explore the world around us. I especially loved dissecting a frog. It was really interesting to me. I also really remember my 8th grade science. I loved my science teacher, who happens to be my now principals mom (small world). My cousin and I created a H2O song about the different parts of water and sang it in front of the whole school. Science has always sparked an interest in me.
What do you recall that was less than enjoyable?
For me, the less enjoyable parts of Science is the "sit and get" portion of the programs. I also hated writing in my science notebook, even though I know that is what great scientists do. I would rather talk about my discoveries, or share them in a different way than just writing them down, so I wish there was more options on sharing out my discoveries.
What impact has this had on your own teaching?
I would say that I try and teach mostly with hands-on learning. I try to get my students up and moving around instead of sitting while I teach. I have built a great balance of learning and experiments with our new National Geographic curriculum.
My favorite teachers in school were typically the science teachers. I remember Mrs. Buckholtz, Mr. Cadman, Mr. Woelber, and Mr. Holts. Those teachers were good at relating information, but also making it interesting. I can remember compliments that Mrs. Buckholtz gave me. She told me I did a great job in test taking. I remember the humor that Mr. Holts used to make class fun. And I remember the hands on projects of Mr. Woelber - high school physics - home made hovercraft, rockets, and dust explosion. Some of the experiments that we did for physics in the 90s would be unlikely to be approved in the modern era. Mr. Woelber, who was ancient in the late 90s, said that in the 70s he would bring a gun to school and shoot a rollerskate on the track. They would measure the distance the rollerskate traveled to figure out the speed of the bullet. CRAZY! We got to fire rockets, and thought that was pretty cool.
I don’t recall the less enjoyable aspects of my early science education. I’m grateful that my memory seems to latch onto the positives and let go of the negatives. I will say that I don’t remember much about science before grade 6. I would have been in late primary or early middle school some 30 years ago and I’m sort of coming up blank on what was less than enjoyable.
The positive impact that teachers had on my teaching practice is profound. The way that they ran their classes made teaching look fun and made me pick a career in education. Warmth, humor, knowledge. I thought these were excellent characteristics that I wanted to model. I have a strange journey - I started college as a science major, but after the first semester, I had two things happen that made me switch majors. First, the science teaching advisor was on holiday, and when I went for my advisor meeting, the fill-in person told me that I should give up on teaching and go into big pharma to make some real money. “Forget student teaching, just take an extra semester of classes and then go work for Johnson and Johnson.” Thats nearly a direct quote. Ok, I didn’t expect that. Secondly, I had a really engaging politics professor. He claimed to be a spy in the cold war on the Berlin Wall. He said spy sounded cool, but it was actually really boring. He was assigned to just listen to radio communications all day. He had some very cool stories, and some cool perspectives on world politics. He also predicted that Afghanistan was going to build the capacity to carry out an attack on the west - he said that before 9/11 happened by a full calendar year. Anyway - he sort of talked me into dropping Science and taking on social studies.
Now that I’m nearly 20 years into my career, I find myself back in science education. I’ve taught overseas for almost all of this time. International schools don’t follow regulations like in the state of Iowa and so you can teach outside of your certificate. Often, these schools have ‘gaps’ that need to be filled. I’ve become a professional gap filler. Leaning more into Math and Science, which are more in demand, than social studies. I enjoy being a gap filler. Also, I found that Social studies were getting a bit touchy to teach. Especially in international settings, with differing social mores, I found it difficult to be teaching history or economics and easier to teach math and science -which are typically not political hot buttons.
So there’s a little bit of my reason why I’m here and how I got started. I remember my science education fondly. I can’t actually remember the ‘bad part’ - and it had a profound impact on my career choices and personal interests in my adulthood.