Teaching a science class is an adventure where you get to watch children progress from magical thinking one day to The Scientific Process at a later point. But the space in between can be quite a trip!
As we were reading a story, one child came across the word fishline and remarked, “I’ve heard of sea lions, but never heard them called fish lions.” Wow, I love science.
We’re always learning new stuff!” Now will someone tell me what I should have said next, because I was speechless. However I did reuse the word fishline several times in the discussion at the end of our story time.
The next day we came upon the concept of wildlife conservation and a young man bellowed out, “Aren’t these animals distinct?” For a moment, I distinctly wished he had said extinct.
No one ever said teaching would be easy . . .
The students really got into the unit on electricity and magnetism each year. One boy was really into the subject, and rushed home to tell mom and dad about how interesting it is to learn about electromaggots. He was right that electromagnets are fascinating.
Another day we were getting ready for a science activity. The chalkboard said, “Today is a day to explore.” One kid got all excited and asked what we were going to explode!”
Science is full of theories, and often includes math. But one day a student found a way to combine Science and Social Studies. He wanted to learn more about the theory of revolution. “My mom doesn’t like it cause she says we’re not monkeys.” Does that mean she thinks the Revolutionary War people fought like monkeys?
When Hurricane Ike hit the Houston-Galveston and Gulf Coast area, that was the only topic of conversation for weeks. Our neighbors finally got their electricity back and we all gathered nervously to watch the weather report.
The meteorologist mentioned how the cool conditions were helping the people who didn’t have power yet. A couple of minutes later a neighbor gal asked me why they talked on the TV about school conditions helping people. She just couldn’t understand how the condition of the schools, which were still closed, could possibly affect the electricity?
The mind of a child – it’s a jungle in there . . .
We studied the process of nature over long periods of time. I showed a picture and mentioned petrified wood. A sophisticated young lady responded, “I don’t really understand. What is it petrified of?” I’ll tell you what I am petrified of as a teacher: teaching kiddos all the amazing variety of vocabulary that infuses and confuses the English language.
Speaking of wood, the class was reading about wood pulp being made into paper, and there was a picture which I explained was a paper mill. One guy immediately chimed in with, “My aunt has one of those pepper mills. She even showed me how to use it.” I guess he didn’t look up when I pointed to the picture.
Sometimes vocabulary study produces a kind of hangover in the brain. A few days later a young scholar asked me about petrified food. He remembered studying it in class but just didn’t know they did that to food. The next day we compared words in spelling class which ended alike, like wood, food, good, etc.
When nutrition comes up, the students love to tell about their breakfast. One overheard me and a parent talking about a check for the book club. The mother asked me what was the check’s number, as she had forgotten to write that down. As soon as the classroom door closed, a child commented that he didn’t know Chex had a number. He continued, “I eat Captain Crunch. I wonder what its number is?” (I began to wonder if cereal had serial numbers. . .)
Older students get into some real heavy science concepts. One day we studied Newton’s Laws of Notion! I decided to take a notion to study motion the next day, just to clarify.
One day just as Science was starting an eager beaver looked at our schedule and noticed the next unit was about groping things. When I took science in school they called it grouping, or classifying things. Kids are getting a little too sophisticated if they are into groping at such a tender age.
The Solar System captures the imagination for sure. A kid asked, “Is there such a thing as black coal?” It took me a minute to process, and finally I realized a black hole was the subject of his questioning.
Perhaps the most vital area of study is about the human body and health. I was listening to a student read while I went across the room to pick up a book. My ears did a twitch when he read about how some babies are born with a congenial heart malformation! I was glad to hear the heart was easy to get along with, but it took a bit of explaining to get the concept of congenital heart malformation clear in this kid’s mind.
Moments like these make me wish I had paid more attention in Methods class in my teacher training college! You reckon there’s a method in all this madness?
Copyright 2013 by Hildra Tague. Obtain permission for use online or in print.