After getting a link from a friend about a science demo site with several misconceptions and activities that don’t work, I noted that having elementary students work with lemon batteries promotes wow, but not the how for students. What I mean by this statement is one of the biggest problems with efforts to engage students in learning science.
Too often we as science teachers (and educators in general) try to entertain our students into learning. While learning doesn’t have to be boring, often times real learning is not fun – my deepest learning is usually achieved after extremely difficult mental and emotional work. But I’m getting into a tangent…sorry.
When we “wow” students with demonstrations and then simply explain how the demo works, we are not teaching, we are telling. Next time you do a demo, get your students thinking. Ask them to make predictions before the wow event. Ask them where they have seen something similar. Ask them to draw what they saw with a partner. Ask them to attempt to explain what happened. Use the wow moment to get the students deeply mentally engaged in the how. Don’t waste your opportunity showing off how much you know, get the kids speculating about what they know!
P.S. When I go to science teacher conferences I am always disappointed by how overcrowded the “101 demos to really wow your students” sessions are while the “How to promote transfer of knowledge” sessions end up with so few people in them. Perhaps we as a science teaching community ought re-evaluate our priorities. Perhaps I’m just bitter cause I’m usually leading sessions like the latter. 🙂