Founder (To Be), Von Gunder Enterprises (to be)

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Could our lack of expressive passion be a cause to the lessened interest of children in science?

I volunteer tutor at our local middle school, in a program called AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) and I was given the opportunity to be a guest speaker in one of the classes I tutor for (8th grade). after the personal questions were handled I offered to talk about science to the best of my ability, and the questions began rushing in. I personally feel like a product of Carl Sagans educational wake, and the passions he expressed throughout his teaching of young minds, manifest within me that day. I got to watch the lights of every child's mind ignite with pure curiosity, and fascination, and that left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. Why weren't they already like that? so I began asking them why they weren't very interested in learning science in the school, many of them told me because it's all boring, you don't learn anything, and many of them didn't understand or even listen to bill nye the science guy videos despite him being a very very powerful thinker. So my question to ted, and to everyone really is, Why are we losing fascination with reality enough to not pass it on to the minds of tomorrow?

How can we give these kids that inspirational jolt to become enthralled with nature?

after my talk, I had kids tell me that they wanted to study the stars, and study the ocean, to pursue the greatest goals, science grabbed hold of their minds, and that is something I wish could happen more often.

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    Gail .

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    Jan 28 2013: I don't bother with Bill Nye, the science guy either. He gives bits and pieces - each of which may be interesting in their own right - but he doesn't make them relevant. That makes him meaningless and hisi programs a waste of my time.

    Here is a very brief video (less than two minutes) that explains it very succinctly. Dr. Kaku is a world-renowned physicist.
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    Jan 28 2013: I am curious, given how you posed your question, what you mean by "the lessened interest of children in science."

    I wonder what time period you are comparing to. Less interested than twenty years ago? Forty years ago?

    For example, when I was in school in the sixties, science was reading something out of a book. No one liked it.

    Now in the United States wouldn't you say the focus has become much more experimental? I have a teaching credential that allows me to teach middle school and some high school science, and the training was ENTIRELY about how to introduce every idea through experiment or simulation, with some planned experiments and other opportunities for kids to design their own. The local public schools, which are far from stellar, do middle school science entirely by inquiry using kits of experimental materials that move around among schools so that everyone gets a chance at all the equipment rather than needing to buy duplicative equipment and non-consummables at each site.

    And the statewide test to test science at 8th grade included numerous opportunities for kids to design experiments to test hypotheses of their own about, say, the factors affecting plant growth.
    • Jan 28 2013: And that is the type of science that needs to be happening, I know it exists, and I don't see it anywhere, but yes I completely agree that that style of teaching is far more correct that what we have been doing, and with comparison, that is a good question, I would have to say that comparatively to that last 40 years cumulative I see it happening, which is understandable with the moon missions and all the science inspired action taken by many great people in the recent past. So realistically I guess I am not being fair, but at some point I did announce I was biased. Thank you for all the input, I really appreciate it.
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        Jan 28 2013: This is, I believe, the most popular inquiry-based science series at the middle school level:

        The other big one is FOSS.

        I expect you can find out how widely used they are by investigating their websites.
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    Jan 27 2013: why are you a volunteer, and not paid to do it full time?
    • Jan 27 2013: That is a very good point, and I want to, as well as many other things, I am a physics major and I do plan on teaching, but that is not an immediate thing that can happen, unless I am mistaken.
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    Jan 27 2013: Many teachers approach whatever topic they love with passion and exuberance. Others are, as you say, less expressive. There is great variety among them.
    One of the secrets to great teaching and learning is to convey the adventure in the subject and to make the classroom itself a place of exploration and adventure.
    • Jan 27 2013: I totally agree, but is it fair to our children to let them experience that lack of passion, so that they too absorb it? aren't their better ways of teaching than to let the minority of teachers, being the passionate exuberant ones, lose the kindled fire of curiosity due to the indifference of the majority, the less expressive ones. It is truly saddening to see a class room of kids incredibly excited about learning, then to listen to them talk about their science class, and how much they hate it. and then looking at my generation and seeing what these kids become when they lose that passion.
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        Jan 27 2013: The goal is to create a context of widespread enthusiasm by matching teachers to the subjects they can represent with passion and integrity.
        • Jan 27 2013: I understand that, but that also relies heavily on the systems we choose to use, and no matter how much you fix a a building with a flawed structure more problems will come to the surface.
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      Jan 27 2013: Harvey, I'm not so sure it is that simple. Teachers and parents do their best (generally speaking). examples:

      1) Joe is a great doctor and surgeon ... he spends all his energy in his love and passion for medicine. His pride and joy son only wants to draw pictures and paint. No interest in medicine.

      2) Jane is a teacher .. last years national teacher of the year. Her daughter want to play professional volleyball.

      Each child is different. I went to school with a kid who's older brother was a four letter starter for every year. One of the best athletes in the history of the school. All the coach expected the same of him. He hated sports.

      In a class of twenty 5 maybe oriented toward science .. 5 to English .. 5 to woodshop ... 5 to PE. It is the job of parents and teachers to encourage and promote their interests ... and to remember that these will change often. However, it is important that if today the student wants to be a pastry chef ... tomarrow a chemist ... that the school and parents give equal weight to all subjects and explain the relationship that a well rounded education can infulence and enhance their success in the field they enter into. A scientest with no writting skills is handicapped ... a lawyer who cannot communicate will not be in demand ... you get the picture.

      By taking time to volunteer you are providing a excellent role model. I have had kids later in life come up to me and say thanks ... that I had influenced them to greater heights .. I could barely recall their names or faces .... As we go about our lives we are not aware of all that is happening around us. I see kids with headset on and think they are lost in their world .. a couple of hours later they approach and say that was good advice you gave my pal Jimmy. He is a great guy and he respects your opinion. I did not think he was listening to our talk.

      School provides a "opportunity" to light those fires. Keep up the good work.

      • Jan 27 2013: Bob, I agree and I do understand what our schools are doing, but you said it yourself, some kids want woodshop, others pe, others english, these are all forms of what science really is, and my point is that what you are saying science is is the science that kids don't like, all kids are fascinated by how things work and why, and we do not teach that well in school, because there isn't really a way to honestly and accurately test whether or not you understand something on a conceptual level. We teach kids these silly little systems that we find helpful and good, but when we present them to children, they fight about whos system is better regardless of the fact that they all do the same thing, Yes I am coming at it from a baised stand point because I am only capable of experiencing my class' but this isn't a unique case, this is happening everywhere and we all know it. grades grades grades is all people really care about, for the most part, whether the child actually understands what is really happening. We should provide a full and diverse experience of all sorts of things to children I completely agree, so why do we only spoon feed them tid bits of examples instead of teaching them in simple terms what is really happening, as best we can approximate. science is a far broader thing than most children even fathom, and they really do glow when they realize that.
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          Jan 28 2013: Harvey, I have made many suggestions such as:

          1) Initiate self paced competent / non-competent modular instruction
          2) Implement dual curriculums .. college prep and .. manual trades
          3) stop seeing the correct answer as the goal and make application the goal.

          The US system is a pyramid with Sec of ED at the top. We all do what he says or he withholds funding. Blackmale. The Sec Ed should never have been a post. The mission statement says to present a educational policy. At 80 Billion dollars a year that had better be one hell of a sentence. Carter really screwed us. Blame the teacher, the principal, the superintendent, or the parent is a load of crap. If you want to assess blame it is Arne Duncan that sets the orders.

          We need to look at practicums like the Singapore system does ... it requires that you go out and apply what we teach you. The proof is in application.

          The US system is all about money ... In other countries they spend less and the system is all about learning. Singapore and others have shown us the light and yet we refuse to listen or learn. We have good teachers and good students ... we have poor leadership.

          Common Core curriculums and basing a teachers eval on students test scores are small bandages on a large problem ... political eye candy that is worthless. Throw money at the problem and walk away.

          We need a real review and a revision to the system ... that is the same Bismark system brought to the states from Germany over two hundred years ago based on industrial and military needs.

          Soloman Khan does a great job at khanacademy .. it is really something to be there when the "light" comes on. I would love to take a class of 20 (random selection) and run that class through in a learn and use .. self paced modular curriculum and then do a comparision at the senior year. Teachers are tied to the real power in education the textbook writers and test developers and revise syllabus to teach the test. No space Bob