Science Education

Reflections on Learning

What is Science?

Science is:

A body of knowledge
A set of skills for learning about nature


Science sets aside what you think is the answer. If you already know the answer you don't need science skills. To build science skills, find a topic where your comfortable exploring without having any form of an answer to start with. Some examples could be the physics of bouncing or rolling balls, the chemistry of baking soda and vinegar, or the effect of light on plants.

Get curious and decide what you want to know. Turn it into a question in your mind. For example, you might like to know if a plant grows faster under a blue light or red light. The best part is you don't know the answer, but if you do a fair test you can figure it out.

Figure out a fair test. Break it down into materials and procedure. Find a way to collect measurements of weight and length.

Scientists also like to apply knowledge in real life. A scientist will test her knowledge to make sure it's really true. For example, does water sort soil into particles of various sizes? Is water good at this or only so-so? A ten-year-old in a garden with a hose could figure this out, but not without trying it. That's science. You have to try it. Science is not just the answers, it's a way of getting them.

Do you have an annoying child that wants to ask why? Why is the sky blue and a plant green? The child who asks why is a scientist. A child may also ask how such as, how do plants respond to their environment? How can we make energy go from one thing to another?

Scientists are communicators. They share their observations with others. Many children love to learn by trying things. The best things parents can do is to teach them how to record and share their observations. No child wants to write lab reports, but perhaps it can be negotiated. Lab reports done well can turn messing around into a career. Lab reports need a question or hypotheses. They need a 'method' for conducting a test. They need to collect information and make observations systematically, for example, by measuring the height of a plant every day. They need to display that information and very possibly conduct calculations on those data. Then they need to draw conclusions that are justified on the basis of the data.

Scientists must make keen observations. They make records and compare them to other records. For example, if you had been keeping a record of the weather you might know if the snow is early or late this year. What is the average temperature over a month? How can you get that number? Scientists must also practice looking closely at small things. Why do a twigs break and wires bend? How is a wire able to bend while a twig breaks? The answer might require a very close examination of both. A scientist can learn a lot from small details gained by observations.

Scientists also make observations systematically: they follow a plan. Planning observations can lead to experiments. A lot of what people call experiments aren't experiments at all. Those activities are still good to do, but they could be so much better if they were controlled. If I wire a flashlight bulb to a battery, and the bulb lights up, that's not an experiment that's a demonstration. To make it a controlled experiment you would have to make two circuits but make one thing different in each.

In a controlled experiment there is one thing you change on purpose, and there is one thing that gets changed as a result of the experiment. So, for example, I can control the colour of light a plant grows under. We can control how much water and soil each gets. We can control how much organic material is in the soil. We can control where the seed is planted. But what we cannot control is how fast the plant grows. That depends on the things we can control. So we call the thing we can't control the "dependent variable" and so, therefore, the other one is the "independent variable". Now with two variables we can make charts, draw graphs and tell stories. And this you can do at home.

This week I would like everyone to submit a sample of what they are doing in Science. It might be that you are learning a body of knowledge from a book. That's fine too. But I would encourage everyone to gain the skills of planning and conducting a controlled experiment. Regardless of what you do, I would like to see some science this week.

Dates and Resources

My main job during this part of the year is to review your samples and provide feedback. The more samples you send the more you get service you get from Rob. I look in SeeSaw each morning and respond to everything I see. 

Tasks for You

  1. Science Samples. In a few short weeks, I'll be reporting on your child's progress in Science. I would like everyone to send in samples of what your children are able to do in Science.  Please upload it to SeeSaw and I'll find it there. 
  2. SeeSaw is working well. If you're having trouble accessing it or would like extra support in SeeSaw, drop me a text or email and let me know when we can get together. Providing evidence and samples of your child's development is required in this program. That said nearly everyone does an amazing job of getting me samples through SeeSaw. Congrats to you all.  If you have not posted on every subject by November 15, I'll use the phone or Zoom to get a better idea. If you'd like to schedule it now, send me an email.
  3. Foundation Skills Assessment for Grade 4 and 7. You will receive a package. Just to the tests as outlined in the instructions. Some people make the tests out to be more important than they are. They are a sort of intensive survey. Your individual results can vary on any given day, but they do provide parents, schools, and the Ministry of Education invaluable information for how we are doing. Please do participate.  Participation can also be a learning experience for both youth and parents.

Dates and Links: November 23-- Term Ends

I am using SeeSaw and gathering information for report cards until November 23, which is the end of the term. I will begin writing report cards on November 12 based on what you have uploaded.  Where there is enough data to write a report card I will alert you so that you can send in additional information. In most cases when there is a problem in the report card it is not due to lack of learning but due to a lack of communication and reporting. Please send lots of school work into SeeSaw. Some of you are sending a lot of pictures of outings and activities. These are great, but please do not send only that. I need to see what the learners are able to do. In the case of computer-based learning, pictures of the screen can be an excellent way of recording progress.

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.

 Rob Wahl recommended resources