If you’ve ever seen the movie “Dude, where’s my car?” then you have seen the part where they go through the drive through for Chinese food and the lady keeps asking them…”and then?”. This is what it is like to teach science to Little Yoda. We finish the science lesson for the day and he turns to me and says, “more”. I just can’t do enough to appease this science loving little dude.
I started off this year with a science program that I thought would take us through the year and would be more than enough for a first grader to learn. But as Robert Burns said, “the best laid plans of mice and mean often go astray.” My intention was that we would do science for two or maybe three days a week. I should have conferred with the student before I made this decision! He believes that we should have his beloved science every day and any day without it is a tragedy.
So now I have combined two programs: Noeo level one biology and Real Science Odyssey Life level one. I am also supplementing with videos (like Magic School bus) and books. We are having a lot of fun learning about the human body and he finally seems to be getting enough.
But how much science does a first grader really need to learn? Part of the problem in the US is that our students spend their time memorizing science facts instead of developing a real understanding of the topics. Studies that have been done to figure out why we are lagging so far behind have shown that American students memorize the facts while students in other nations learn the foundational concepts that make complicated processes understandable later on. So I do not require him to do worksheets or memorize concepts. I have found that he absorbs the most knowledge when we do the readings, demonstrations, etc. and then discuss it together. I have often found that days later he will come to me and want to talk about something we read or saw more in-depth. He is actually processing the information as opposed to just remembering something long enough to spit it back out on a test.
It is extremely important to foster our children’s interest and love of science and math. If we make it dry and boring they will not want to continue learning these most important subjects. It is sad that so few of our students choose the STEM fields. By the time U.S. students get to college, interest in science is scant. In 2006, only 29.3 percent of first-year male college students intended to study a STEM field and just 15.1 percent of first-year females did. And even fewer actually complete these fields of study: out of over 1.5 million bachelor degrees awarded in 2007, only 16 percent were in STEM subjects.
So even though I might grumble a bit (or sometimes a lot) about the extra time it takes to do science every day and to pull together the supplies I need, I know that the best thing I can do for my child is to continue to encourage his love of all things science.