Thursday, February 28, 2019

Smarty always had interest in science. When she was younger, we did a lot of science experiments at home. A lot of it was more of a "science play" rather than real science, but I believe these early science experiments helped her to perceive science as something exciting and worthy of her time. She also always read a lot of non-fiction even though her love of non-fiction was almost squashed in kindergarten and first grade, because non-fiction books in her classroom were drastically below her reading and comprehension level.
Smarty was overall lucky with her science teachers. Her elementary school teachers were excited and engaging when they were teaching science even though I always wished for more time allocated to it against all the other competing priorities of elementary school. Unfortunately, her 6th grade science teacher had to teach both math and science to two different grades without having any experience teaching science, and that year was a complete waste. That teacher was let go, and a new science teacher arrived next year, a wonderful woman with PhD in genetics and prior work experience as a researcher on human genome project. While Smarty hated her 7th grade science curriculum with a passion, she loved the teacher, and her interest in science was rekindled. Dr. N tried to support her by giving her extra projects and even allowing her to read in class during explanations, because she knew that Smarty was bored to death during them.
Smarty's new school does not follow "curriculum fads" as her headmaster calls "integrated math" or "integrated science" approaches. This year, an entire middle school does life science only. Smarty is really happy about it, because rather than "spiraling" into different science topics as she did for two years, she can dive much deeper into an area that she finds fascinating - biology. Not only she takes middle school biology, but she is also taking a high school marine biology class at the same time. She is quite amused by the fact that a lot of material covered is exactly the same in both classes, so she only spends about 1.4 effort on her two biology classes instead of 2x effort. She is disappointed that she won't be able to take AP Biology next year, because her teacher alternates AP Biology and AP Environmental Science between years, but she really wants to "double down" on science next year and take both Chemistry and AP Environmental Science.
Smarty is lucky again to have a wonderful science teacher, another PhD, this time in marine biology. Dr B. keeps Smarty busy. She spent some time of her break growing protists (those two jars in the image contain protist habitats). For her "teaching gig" in life science, she needed to prepare a lab for her classmates. She was hoping to get some protists from the water in their little koi pond in school, but initially the number of protists under microscope looked rather disappointing. Smarty did a lot of research on how to "culture" protists and had two jars going - one with rice mixture to encourage them to reproduce and another one with boiled egg yolk. She then compared the results in the end of the break under her (rather underwhelming) microscope and felt confident that she has enough protists for her microscope lab. I can't wait to hear how it goes - it's the first time she is fully responsible for a "real" science lab. Earlier this year, she spent a lot of time studying plankton for her marine biology class - including reading science papers on Google scholar and even writing to one of the authors to ask for advice (and receiving the reply).
I am very happy that Smarty is enjoying science. I feel that it's too early to say whether her excitement about biology will translate into what she chooses to study, but I certainly hope that she will learn important skills of applying evidence-based reasoning to complex problems and ability to organize her thoughts while she goes through more science in high school. I also hope that she will continue to meet dedicated and inventive teachers who will continue to inspire, encourage, and challenge her.

Your Turn

Do your kids enjoy science?


Min Erva said...

I took AP Biology in high school and was disappointed so much of it was memorization. K seems to enjoy Physics much more, especially Astrophysics. She even said she may want to be an astrophysicist among other things...

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

I miss those "science play" years, they were a lot of fun.

Ticia said...

I never took AP science courses in high school, just the plain old honors courses, but I did enjoy science in high school. Being an el-ed major I didn't have much in the way of science to take, just science for elementary teachers, but that was a fun course to take in college, lots of hands-on stuff to teach kids.