Saturday, November 29, 2014

Elementary science

Here are the questions any elementary school teacher should be able to answer: None of us should be so specialized that we can laugh off our ignorance in the basic tenets of life, culture, language, and mathematics.
  • When we lose weight, where does most of it go? 
  • Why do we need oxygen?
  • Why do things fall down?
  • Why doesn't the sun burn up?
  • Why does it get cold in the winter?

These are not the right answers:
  • Poop.
  • To live (doesn't answer the question).
  • "Gravity" doesn't answer the question--you may as well say vishquishnosity.
  • Because it's really big.
  • Because we're farther awa from the sun.
The world's a wonderfully strange place, a place where trees take our breath and spin it into sugar, and we take the sugar and break it back down back into water and CO2, where all things made of stuff are attracted to all other things made of stuff, fueled by nuclear reactions in a local star unfathomably far away yet closer than the unfathomably large number of other stars that exist.


Andy Rundquist said...

While I agree there are some factual things that people should just know, what I would much prefer is that people would take a scientific approach to such questions. Take "what causes the seasons" for example. If they say it's because we get further from the sun, I would want to ask why that would be an explanation, and then hopefully they could work out the other ramifications if that were true. Hopefully things like "south summer/north winter" would help them. In other words, not knowing factual stuff doesn't bother me nearly as much as saying things like "we have no idea what causes the tides." As far as things like NGSS is concerned, I'm quite pleased that understanding the process of science is so heavily infused in there. As far as I'm concerned, pushing that even further wouldn't bother me too much, even at the cost of some things we'd be embarrassed about if elementary teachers didn't know it.

doyle said...

Dear Andy,

Indeed--I strongly agree that we take a scientific approach as well, and my examples leave something to be desired.

I'd rather teachers say they have no clue rather than say things untrue, but too many of us are too sure of, well, everything.

The seasons example is a classic one, and one I may edit in--it's a good one to counter, too, since we can easily Skype a class in the other hemisphere to see what's going on there.

I still have kids believing that daylight lasts 12 hours in these parts, even as the sun barely crawls above the trees and collapses in less than 10 hours.

Thanks for your words!