Doing SCIENCE at its most fundamental level.
For me, the goal of this school year has been to create well-designed science experiences for my students, which increase their capacity to take on new challenges to solve real-world problems and producing solutions that are inspiring and thought provoking. Students are empowered by these experiences that provide both the information and understanding gathered within the curriculum. It is the means through which learning takes place.
The Alternative Energy Project in Physics (solar energy, wind energy, fuel cell technology and energy conservation) provides students with opportunities to apply new knowledge and solve real-world problems through thought provoking inquiry-based research. During the school year students perform scientific research and become critical thinkers by basing logical arguments upon an adherence to evidence. This STEM Research in the physics classroom is an essential component to the science curriculum because it encourages the development of needed 21st century skills and abilities by all students. These STEM Research Projects provide the tools, resources, guidance and objectives to help motivate students to write proposals, conduct experiments and publish their findings and conclusions.
Two books that I recommend as resources for teachers wanting to design STEM Research into their curriculum are the following:
§ STEM Student Research Handbook by Darci J. Harland and published by NSTA Press.
§ Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe and published by ASCD.
The issue that continues to challenge me, as a science educator, is how to effectively assess students’ abilities after they complete performance-based projects when applying what they know and what they learned in physics. During this school year I have attempted to gauge the level of students’ understanding in science by looking at their abilities to solve problems, conduct inquiry and think deeply about results. These STEM initiatives ensure that education standards requiring coverage of concepts like motion, force, and energy are addressed and learned as these student researchers define variables, conduct experimentation, problem solve, analyze data and construct narratives expressing researched outcomes.
Recent effort to implement these new curriculum initiatives provide me with a new opportunity to break the mold of current thought of how understanding is defined and have all students work for inspired, inquiry-driven and performance-based learning. The habits of the mind of all these students become minds-on and hands-on learning as students commit to delivering evidence-based outcomes. Student learning is not only enhanced by “the process of doing science”, but it is also supported by students thinking more deeply about concepts, theories and principles. Students ask more probing questions related to their scientific investigations and they are engaged in the process of science at its most fundamental level.