Well, we’re just finishing our second week as Get Real! Science students and I can’t believe how much thoughtful, intelligent, science-centric conversation our cohort has been able to have. We spent this week thinking about the culture of science and defining our own relationship with science. In addition, The Stink Squad (myself, Sam, and Alyssa) went to Sodus HS and attempted to collect stink bugs and other insects (and wow do I mean attempted- I think we got maybe 6 bugs total) with the hopes of studying the relationship between location on stink bug quantity.
Alyssa and Sam using aerial photography to survey the land.
By doing this, we’ve learned a ton about how to practice science in a way that will relate to us and to the community of Sodus. We’ve been developing our scientific curiosity by actually doing science! …and maybe more importantly, I’ve been noticing in my middle school classroom that actually doing science is how kids learn science!
This Monday, 8th grade students will be taking the grueling 80 question New York State exam. They’ll sit in a hot gym for several hours answering multiple choice and short answer questions as a culmination of two years of science education. Needless to say, I’m not hot on tests… especially tests in a hot gym filled with 40 middle schoolers. But they’ve got to do it to show that they have in fact learned a little something about the world around them.
So, this week, we’ve been reviewing for the exam. I really tried to make it fun- candy, jeopardy, and class competition were involved! But my kids just weren’t having it. Maybe 5 out of 18 students were following along and answering questions one day when we came upon the following questions in the 2015 exam:
June 2015 NYS Intermediate Level Science Exam
Now, as you can imagine, sitting and interpreting data you had no part in finding and answering questions based on that data is not how a 14 year old wants to spend their Wednesday afternoon. So I said, **** it, let’s try this.
I asked the group if they knew how to measure their heart rate. One girl said “you feel your chest!”, and another boy said “you count it!”, but none could actually figure out how to find their pulse. So even though all the students were seated and relatively quiet (a blessing in any middle school class), I said put your pencils down, we’re doing an experiment.
And we did! The kids were shown how to take their pulse and helped each other find a resting heart rate. Then, we went outside and the really energetic ones ran around the school yard. They then took their pulse and were amazed at the difference in themselves and between students. The ones who refused at first to jog around saw other students’ amazement at the change and even decided to jog (albeit slowly) as well!
We then came back inside and recorded our own data and the kids were able to easily answer the state’s questions. And this got me thinking, imagine if we treated every question on a test this way. Instead of just reading and deciphering what the correct answer might be, what if we actually did the question?