Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Good news from the science education front

My daughter loves Tuesdays and Thursdays because she has two class periods* of earth science with her favorite teacher.

What makes him a favorite teacher with kids and parents alike? Let me count the ways.
  1. He told the parents at Back to School Night at the beginning of the school year that the kids in the class are all bright enough--as evident from their quiz scores and the sophistication of their questions in class--that they don't require drilling. Instead, he will use the found time to let them loose in the science laboratory set up for the 8th grade physical science classes.
  2. In class, he teaches the kids the difference between the right answer in their textbooks, which they should use on the standardized tests, and the much more complex physical reality. The kids really appreciate not being talked down to.
  3. He covers all the state standards. It would be difficult not to with today's idiot-proof textbooks that start every section with a checklist of standards, review of standards that should have been mastered in prior sections, and the final standards-based quiz at the end of the unit. But he doesn't drill the kids over and over. If they get it, the class can cover something else.
  4. Something else often takes the form of long digressions that integrate related principles not in this year's science curriculum standards.
  5. This parent really appreciates the depth with which he covers the topics and the other topics that he pulls in. It leads to some very interesting dinner conversation.
  6. This week, she told us about the triple point in phase diagrams as she stirred a glass of ice water at dinner.
  7. Last week, she asked me about the butterfly effect and we discussed the Lyapunov exponent, a subject near and dear to my heart and something I calculated for "my" set of equations in my PhD thesis.
  8. The science content of the 6th grade California earth science curriculum is not bad. Among other things, the kids learn how to read a weather chart using the same notation as professional meteorologists. This is way more than I did 30 years ago.
* They are on a "stacked" schedule with six 45 minute classes on Mondays and a "block" schedule with three 82 minute classes on TTh and WF. This gives them more time for project-based lessons.

1 comment:

  1. This is awesome. A good teacher makes such a difference. I think I was steered towards chemistry because I had two great chemistry teachers in a row.

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