I am currently planning units for my new Grade 8 class that hopes to arrive in 4 short weeks… and as I sat here thinking about how to make this interesting, it dawned on me that I shouldn’t be making it interesting, but I should encourage my students to be creative with it! I will be teaching the first unit about cells, and so I looked for ideas on how to encourage innovation within a science unit.
Science is a domain that has been so vastly impacted by innovation: think about different medicines that have been created, electric cars, and computer software. Each of these holds so much potential of improving the quality of life for so many people.. which is why teaching creativity and innovation in the science classroom is so important. Science is a discipline of questioning, experimenting, and thinking outside of the box: and students learn best by doing. So, as they study, it is best if they have DONE so
mething with that knowledge, not just REMEMBERED that knowledge.
I agree with the author, Rebeccah Haines, as she discusses how creativity and innovation is a worthy task, but so also is the learning of the essential core content. Below are a few of her ideas to balance and achieve both of these:
When you want your students to memorize basic, core facts, the easiest way to do it is to have a competition. Because students love competition, they are more likely to go above and beyond in challenging themselves. If you want students to produce some of their most innovative work, let them know that they will be recognized for excellent results. This can spur even the most reluctant student to go above and beyond!
Not only do students like having some end reward, they also appreciate being assessed compared to their peers, and responding to a more authentic challenge. When they have something meaningful to do, they are more intrinsically motivated to complete the challenge.
I’m now thinking of a way to have a competition about my water systems unit: perhaps creating a proposal to bring to city council for a new watershed..
2. Classroom Projects
When time is more limited, doing smaller classroom projects can also merge student innovation with essential content instruction. This article lists several challenges and projects that can be of use. Each of the projects takes real problems faced by experts in the field, how to solve the problem is modeled, and then students are allowed to solve the problem on their own.
Solving Tomorrows Problems..
Earlier I discussed the need for innovation… but within Science this need is also so great. So many issues lie here that can be solved with science: climate change, shrinking natural resources, etc. These are problems that our students will have to face and solve. Not only will our students need to know how to use the technology around them, but they will have to find new ways to use it to meet their needs.