Science: Something You Do
What is science?
Over the past two newsletters, I have been writing about science.
This newsletter is about Science—the curricular subject. Science has a split personality. Science is a body of knowledge about nature. It is about nature, not everything there is to know about nature, for there is much we know about nature that is not scientific but still very very true. Nature is the created universe. It includes everything
from stars to starfish, and emus to electrons. In 1968 the Canadian National Film board made an amazing video called “Cosmic Zoom”. I was certainly riveted by it. It’s eight minutes long. A new cosmic zoom demonstrates some of what has been learned since. There is however pacing and esthetic in the older version that has yet to be transcended. Watch them with your children.
But science is more than a body of knowledge, it is also a method to gather that knowledge. The method starts with thinking about it. When you think you know what is true you are ready to begin the scientific method, which is to check it by observing. Observing includes all the senses. It includes measurements and data collection of every kind. Observations involve devices of every sort ranging from telescopes to magnetometers. If a scientist makes observations or obtains data that match what he or she thought would happen, then they write a report for other scientists to try it too. If lots of scientists get the same answer, then it’s a scientific consensus and it becomes part of the body of knowledge we call science.
Admittedly, it isn’t always so cut and dried, but that’s a general idea. The scientist doesn’t know anything for sure unless they can produce observations, usually lots of observations, to back it up. When we talk about lots of observations, we mean data. If you have lots of observations you have to record them. So, a scientist will keep a lab book. There you will find notes on what they are trying to learn by thinking about nature and then checking it by observation.
One of the most important ways to make observations is by doing experiments. Another way is to make scientific demonstrations and models. Learners and homeschooling parents often confuse these. When we play with magnets and observe how they attract and repel we could call that a demonstration. We might put vinegar in a bottle, add baking soda, and capture the fizz in a balloon. We might even use what’s in the balloon to blow out a candle. This is very cool. It is well worth doing and worth writing down to tell the story, but it not an experiment. It is a good way to make observations, but might still argue about what caused the candle to go out.
Modeling is also quite useful as a way to gather observations. Perhaps you are wondering why some caves are impossible to explore without bringing oxygen to breathe. So you make a small cave. Inside a bottle, which is our 'cave', we add some powdered lime (Calcium Carbonate) to stand for the limestone and add water that has been soaking in peat moss to stand for the groundwater around the cave. You have a model of the cave in your bottle. You may be able to put a match inside the bottle to stand for the life of a person. You could see what happens. Another example of a model could be to model your community’s electrical grid on a half sheet of plywood using wires, batteries, and bulbs. This would be a model of the electrical grid.
An experiment, however, is a special way to make observations. Next week I will write about the controlled experiment. Controlled experiments are one more way to add to the body of knowledge we call science.
Nature is a magical and wonderful subject of exploration. It is both a body of knowledge and a method. To use any scientific method is a skill which needs building over time. So, study your science, but do your science as well, for science is more something you do, like Art, than something you know. If you work hard on your other subjects in the winter, science is great in the spring. Happy learning.
Dates and Resources
Leaving Money on the Table
Everyone is aware of HCOS funding for learning resources. If for any reason you don't need all of it, there's nothing wrong with leaving it for others. It's a shared table and HCOS counts on the fact that few people spend every dime in their accounts. That said, it's wise to be deliberate about it, rather than missing the deadlines. My classroom experience matches my HCOS experience: conclude spending for the current year by the end of March. That leaves room for error and emergencies. Spend only what you need and leave the rest, but don't just procrastinate past the deadline. That's not good for learners.
- Recommended date to conclude spending: March 30
- Funding opens for 2019-2020 school year: approx. April 30
- Deadline for purchasing outside of Canada: May 1
- Deadline for all resource purchasing: May 15
- Purchasing Department shutdown: May 15
Note also: This is the last year for internet reimbursements.
These are some of your best days
Make hay while the sun shines! The problem is recognizing that the sun is shining. If you are not facing any immediate travel or circumstances likely to affect learning, then the sun is shining. Winter is very sunny so make lots of hay. Soon it will be spring and the children will want to be outside. These next two months are some of the best for learning.
Dates and Links:
February 22 Term Two cutoff for submissions to SeeSaw
Feb 22 to March 11: Rob Focussed on Report Cards
March 18- 29 Spring Break
April 19-22 Easter
April 23 to 30 CHEC (Convention in Kelowna)
You may be interested in my recommended resources page. I only add to these resources when I see a learner has done well using it within the BC curriculum. I hope to add a few more links this year.