In reflecting on the Science Fairs that I’ve attended I can’t help but ask: Whatever happened to inquiry in Science? It’s part of our standard PLOs in BC but this is one thing I found to be missing in all of these projects that test a hypothesis. I usually ask “Why did you do your experiment? How did you come to your question?” And what I usually get back is either a blank stare or “it was in the package/online.”
The emphasis of science then, ends up on the doing but not the thinking, which I feel is the biggest shame. The essence of science and of learning is the thinking! Experiments (the doing) are done because of questions – the how and why – inquiry! Yet can be ignored in some science classrooms. The process of thinking and questioning is being overlooked or underemphasized.
So often students are asked to use the scientific method. Which they do quite effortlessly once they’ve found an experiment from a quick google search. But how can we have our students try doing the first step on their own when they haven’t been given instruction on how? Asking questions is a skill to be taught and explored before we ask students to even start using the scientific method in a deeper way.
An activity I would like to try is taking a metacognitive approach to science. A student would take a scientist, inventor, creator (whoever who has used the scientific method to test a hypothesis) – and instead of replicating how they came to their conclusion, dig around and discover how they got their essential question/ hypothesis and what the process of thinking is like.
This way, whoever the student chooses will act as a model for how to think. The student will have to research the life of that person, what affected their scientist enough to form that question, what connections, observations and reasonings their scientist would have made. By examining the process of thinking and question making, students may begin to understand what they must do when forming a question of their own and how this process creates the meaning behind the experiment. Why does it really matter if an egg floats or sinks in salt water? Why was answering that question important in the first place? It all comes down to the scientist and how they thought about it. Their thinking made that question an important one to answer.
Having students think about their thinking while their reading is a skill we teach day in and day out of our literacy programs (especially with the use of Adrianne Gear’s Reading/Writing Power kits). Metacognitive readers are good readers! But.. good thinkers make good scientists!