Community: Past and Future

So… week 4 of 8 is just about finished. And wow has it been a wild ride. If I kept the rate of catharses I have now through my entire life, I probably would’ve stubbled upon the secret of life by the time I was 14. Unfortunately, with this many enlightening moments comes little time or mental energy to process all of them. The best I can do is process the ones I can, and keep the others for revelation at another time.

In preparing our portfolio and proving ourselves to be competent teachers with the potential for growth, one of the principles we strive to show growth in and continue developing is making science relevant to the community. For one thing, science cannot stand on its own. Throughout time, for good or for worse, science has been intertwined with people on the whole. Sometimes scientific growth was restricted, other times it was allowed to flourish. Science has always sought to discover and learn about the world not always just for the sake of discovery, but also for the benefit of mankind.

The NSTA has their ideas on what community-bases science should look and sound like, which can be found here.

With both those points presented, science has always sought to change and adapt our views of the world and creating a clearer picture. The issue is how we perceive science’s ability to create a clearer picture and how science actually works can be quite different. Students (and many other adults for that matter) sometimes view science as a set of a few great discoveries rather than a gradual understanding of the world around us. Science is also perceived as a few overarching experiments and discoveries rather than the discoveries that can be made by ordinary people in a wide range of scopes. as the old quote (misattributed to Newton) goes, “If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” And that is true for all of us.

Picture this: A middle schooler who lives in a major city who is learning about the human body in science class. He learns about the heart, the brains, the lungs and on and on and on. He/She sort of gets what the teacher is saying, but doesn’t really see how it matters. That is until his/her teacher asks “does anyone in this class know someone with asthma?” He/she has heard that word before because his/her little brother has asthma. Much to his/her surprise, a good number of her classmates also raise their hand. Thus starts a project on how environmental factors affect our health. With the right scaffolds and the right amount of “messiness,” the student can explore asthma in his/her family, his/her block, and his/her neighborhood.

The student here is engaging in real science, while to him/her it may seem more like English or social studies. The interviews she does, the newspaper articles or internet sources reads are all collection of data to create an informed conclusion. By tying back the knowledge and understand she gains in class, he/she not only can see whether or not asthma can be a problem in her area, but how it is a problem and what to do about it. He/she reaches that second point and can see farther than just the correlation by “standing on the shoulders of giants,” that is, relying on the knowledge gained and shared by those before him/her.

In this way science is a communal endeavor. Not only in its use to help bring awareness or consider solutions to a community’s problems, but by relying on the knowledge that came before and to add to that wealth of knowledge for those in the future. The same goes for technology; we build upon what is pre-existing and strive to make it better for the present and future.

But a word of caution to this tale, much as scientific theories have been disproved and built upon, that cycle is not stuck in the past; it is potentially going on now. What we perceive as scientific truth may not be tomorrow, and we have to be ready for that and equip our students with the tools to be okay with that. Something we perceive as good today may not be tomorrow in light of new scientific evidence and separating personal biases form scientific fact is crucial. However it is our personal biases and the things we care about that drive scientific discovery no matter how big. I guess what I am trying to say is that while the process of science may seem and be devoid of the human element, science itself does not exist without that personal touch, whether it be learning from scientist of the past or wanting a better future.

With that morsel of enlightenment I lower the curtain on this one. The temperature is supposed to be improving. As for the weather… well it’s Rochester.

2 thoughts on “Community: Past and Future

  1. A sentence from your blog that captured my attention and imagination:
    “What we perceive as scientific truth may not be tomorrow, and we have to be ready for that and equip our students with the tools to be okay with that.”
    Educators do have the duty to prepare/equip students with being open to the idea that what we hold true today may not be so true tomorrow. We need our students to think about knowledge. Can’t wait to hear more about how you will help your students buy into this way of thinking. My imagination runs wild with possibility and hope.

    • We were talking about GMO’s today and some of the kids were a bit unsettled with the notion that science had the evidence, but the answer was still not agreed on. With that said, some really enjoyed the fact that there was on answer and they seemed more at ease with presenting their ideas.

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