So happy right now!!
Just about an hour ago, in my 8th grade class, we – for what feels like the 9 millionth time in the past 2 weeks – were going through the scientific method.
Students have been frustrated because it's a totally different approach to science than what they're used to. Instead of having stuff to memorize, a concrete set of “science facts,” they're learning a general method, which I'm then trying to make them apply in different specific situations. This requires critical thinking – they have to understand the experiment, and be able to make inferences about why the researcher in question is doing things in a certain way. Even spending most of every class going through different specific examples, the students have had trouble understanding what we are doing at the most basic level. They can't find the answers anywhere in the notes I give them because the answers simply aren't there, and this drives them nuts.
Today, we were going through some notes I gave them on Francesco Redi and the idea that life can come from non-life. I knew that the passage I gave them would be difficult, and it was. We started talking about what he did – the observations he made, the questions he was trying to answer. And all of a sudden, BAM!!
A student puts up his hand and asks, “We learn that life cannot come from non-living things, but if I take water and put it in a jar and seal it, it will become dirty. Why is that?”
!! Critical thinking!! Making observations and asking questions about the world!!
We went through it together as a class – students actually listening and seemingly interested in what I was saying, for once. We talked about the idea of there being micro-organisms, too small to see, in the water, that grow into visible muck they are talking about. And then a student put up his hand and asked, “If I boil the water, and then seal it, will it then become dirty?”
I almost cried. Really. I was that happy.
There it was – the scientific method. They were reasoning, asking questions and then thinking of ways to answer them, testing their theories. They could kill the organisms in the water by boiling, and then nothing could grow! Yes!
At the end of class, we went through the steps of the scientific method as they applied to Redi's experiment one more time. The students were totally lost, even though we had just gone over it (Me: “What scientific question was Redi trying to answer?” Students: “Observation!” “Hypothesis!”). But I don't care. On another, more important level, they are getting it.