The Learning Problem

"I don’t want to be a scientist. I don’t like all of science. It’s about boring things."
-Response from a middle school student (Barton & Basu, 2007)

With a national emphasis on STEM subjects and a presidential call for the need to produce more students interested in science, the importance of science education in today’s technological and rapidly changing world is apparent.  Yet, many students are turned off by the science they encounter in school, viewing it as boring, irrelevant, and removed from their own lives. In interviews with urban students, Barton and Basu (2007) noted that, “Many of the students… envisioned the field of science as distant and inaccessible. They thought of Einstein, lab coats, and goggles.” One contributing factor is that school science is often presented as a set of definitions, formulas, and facts to be memorized rather than as a situated process of inquiry and discovery. The story of science as a fascinating and complex human endeavor is left out, adding to the perception of science as stale and static. This sentiment is echoed by science education researchers like Pedretti (2001), who asserts that school science is often represented as, "unproblematic… monolithic, objective, and apolitical."  In light of this, the question arises:

How might we address this lack of engagement and change students' negative views of school science as stale and boring?

In response to this, I've developed Aha! Animations, a web-based resource for middle school students designed to foster science engagement.  Comprised of a series of short animations on standard science topics, it presents the often untold story of how our scientific understanding has come to be.  Within each animated scene, learners uncover key pieces of evidence by playing games that highlight how the evidence was actually discovered.  In addition, learners are invited to engage with scientists currently studying the topic.  This interactive narrative encourages learners to view science not as a set of static facts, but as an ongoing endeavor shaped by history, society, and the perseverance and creativity of individuals.

 

Basu S. J. & Barton A. C. (2007). Developing a Sustained Interest in Science Among Urban Minority Youth. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44:3, pp. 466-486.

Pedretti E. T. (2002). T. Kuhn Meets T. Rex: Critical Conversations and New Directions in Science Centers and Museums. Studies in Science Education, 37:1, pp. 1-41.