The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 22 2013

Searching for Creepy Crawlies

Day 158: I can’t think of any overarching theme for today. Classes went well, whether it was the “we need to shape up” speech I had to give 2nd period or the “we have a lot to celebrate” speech I gave 8th period.

So, in the absence of any big theme, here’s a cute story. My homeroom can struggle to stay focused. I decided recently that the overwhelming volume of notes and vocabulary was not helping them be engaged in Science. So, I planned a lab. I went to Home Depot, bought some gravel, soil and small plants. Our goal – build some ecosystems in soda bottles.

Mind you, this is not the kind of lab I’m excited about. I like labs that introduce students to new ideas and concepts, so I can follow up on those inchoate ideas with subsequent explanation-heavy lessons. In contrast, this lab would be glorified practice.

The first two times I ran the lab, last Friday, it was hectic and frustrating. Today, it started that way. Imagine 25 hyper 11-year-olds trying to put dirt and plants into bottles and you probably get it. Slowly but surely, however, everyone got into it. TC stopped being sullen and got into trying to get her plant to fit inside a shorter bottle. MR was insistent on getting just the right volume of water in the soil.

And then the big finish – we went outside to find organisms for our ecosystems. Watching a bunch of 6th graders dig around in the dirt looking for bugs to add to their soda bottle ecosystems is pretty much precious. Whenever someone found a millipede, beetle or ant, they would joyously scream out their discovery. This was usually followed by three more students screaming out in mock terror of the centimeter-long insects.

At the end of the period, about six or seven kids pleaded with me to let them stay outside. To clarify, they were happy to spend the start of recess digging around in dirt for insects. At the end of the day, JP, who was absent for most of Science, ran out to me with a note from the special education teacher, asking if he could come join because he’d missed out on his class’ turn earlier that day.

In short, hands-on science is the best. I really, really need to do more of it next year.

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Experimental Procedures of a Second-Year Teacher

Greater Boston
Middle School

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