We held our second workshop for evolution teachers this summer at Michigan State University, and our first later in the same week on the nature of science at Clemson University.
It was a busy week to say the least. It was also an extremely productive week.
We were able to gather valuable input from this newest cohort of evolution teachers and combine it with feedback from the field-testing by our first group to continue to refine our evolution lessons, which will be online and available soon. An exciting opportunity arising from this workshop will be the ability to articulate lessons across age groups. Three of the new evolution ambassadors teach dual-credit courses. This will allow us to create more iterations of the lessons.
The Nature of Science workshop was the first time we’ve brought teachers together to work on lessons on the nature of science. What an amazingly creative group! Our newest teacher ambassadors developed a modeling approach to the lessons that will heighten the impact of the lessons by encouraging students to construct their understanding of how science works by doing hands-on science rather than being led through a formulaic exercise. Vocabulary words such as hypothesis, theory, and law are introduced at the end of the lessons rather than the beginning.
This approach will allow students to construct their own understanding about how to use science and not simply memorize steps. There is not one single way to do science, so learning a “scientific method,” no matter how well conceived, can limit students’ understanding of how science works. It is also important that students learn science is a process. The body of knowledge accumulated over centuries of doing science becomes the tools for ongoing discovery. The real value of science is that it allows us to predict answers to questions and then test our ideas in a way that is real and reproducible.
As students learn how to do science, they will intuitively learn how to apply these strategies in their own problem solving. This is life-long learning.