Science-As-Inquiry, 2nd Edition, Published

Science-as-Inquiry, 2nd Edition has been published by Good Year Books.  It is available for purchase here.  The text that follows the image of the book is part of the Introduction of the book.

Science As Inquiry, 2nd Edition, front and back covers.

Science As Inquiry, 2nd Edition weaves together ideas about science teaching and inquiry that were developed over many years of work with practicing science teachers in the context of seminars conducted around the U.S.A, in school district staff development seminars, and courses that I taught at Georgia State University.

Science As Inquiry provides the practical tools, based on theory and research, that science teachers use in their classrooms to involve their students in inquiry learning, including handson investigations, project-based activities, Internet-based learning experiences, and science activities in which students are guided to construct meaning and develop ideas about science and how it relates to them and their community.

Inquiry science teaching by its very nature is a humanistic quest. It puts at the center of learning not only the students, but also how science relates to their lived experiences, and issues and concepts that connect to their lives. Doing science in the classroom that is inquiry-based relies on teachers and administrators who are willing to confront the current trend that advocates a standards-based and high stakes testing paradigm. The dominant reason for teaching science is embedded in an “economic” argument that is rooted in the nation’s perception of how it compares to other nations in science, technology, and engineering. This led to the development of new science curricula, but it also led to the wide scale use of student achievement scores in measuring learning.

Student achievement, as measured on “bubble tests,” has become the method to measure effectiveness of school systems, schools, and teachers, not to mention the students.

Although the organizations that have developed the science standards (National Research Council) advocate science teaching as an active process, and suggest that students should be involved in scientific inquiry, there is a disconnect between the standards approach and the implementation of an inquiry-based approach to science teaching. We need to pull back on the drive to create a single set of standards and complementary set of assessments, and move instead toward a system of education that is rooted locally, driven by professional teachers who view learning as more personalized, and conducted in accord with democratic principles, constructivist and inquiry learning, and cultural principles that relate the curriculum to the nature and needs of the students.

Science education researchers have reported that inquiry-based instructional practices are more likely to increase conceptual understanding than are strategies that rely on more passive techniques, and in the current environment emphasizing a standardized assessment approach, teachers will tend to rely on more traditional and passive teaching techniques. Inquiry-based teaching is often characterized as actively engaging students in hands-on and minds-on learning experiences. Inquiry-based teaching also is seen as giving students more responsibility for learning. Given that the evidence is somewhat supportive of inquiry-based science, our current scheme of national science standards emphasizing a broad array of concepts to be tested would tend to undermine an inquiry approach.

Teachers who advocate and implement an inquiry philosophy of learning do so because they want to inspire and encourage a love of learning among their students. They see the purpose of schooling as inspiring students, by engaging them in creative and innovative activities and projects. Here is how Kareen Borders2, a science teacher, frames this view:

My students are not passive learners of science, they ARE scientists. They embrace the idea that they are empowered to own their learning. In addition to creating a love of learning within my students, I am intentional about equipping students with wonder, teamwork strategies, and problem-solving skills for jobs that may not exist yet.

Science As Inquiry embraces 21st century teaching in which inquiry becomes the center and heart of learning. Science As Inquiry provides a pathway to make your current approach to teaching more inquiry-oriented, and to embrace the digital world that is ubiquitous to our students and the world they inhabit.

From Oil to Wind: An STS Project

Teaching students about the Earth’s energy future is an important goal of science education.  In the news these days is the debate (because of $4+ gas in the US) about off shore drilling, energy independence (an oxymoron?), wind and other alternative energies.  How should these ideas be approached with students?  What questions should students raise to explore these ideas?  What follows are some comments about ideas by T. Boone Pickens, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, and Thomas L. Friedman about energy.  How might these ideas be incorporated in an STS Project or series of lessons on energy?

Yesterday, a wealthy Texas oilman, T. Boone Pickens announced his mission to move America away from it dependency on oil to others forms of energy, in particular wind and natural gas–in short to “supplant oil with wind.”  He’s launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign that will stretch beyond the U.S. Presidential campaign, and in his mind, influence the debate on energy during the campaigns.  His plan is briefly described in the video below.

In an earlier blog entry I wrote about Robert F. Kennedy’s ideas to decarbonize the economy of the U.S. by moving the U.S. toward alternative energy sources, especially wind power.  As Kennedy and others have pointed out, the electrical grid is unable to move energy freely throughout the U.S. at this time, and they have suggested that the infrastructure of the electrical grid needs to be revamped.  In fact, if Pickens’ plan of wind generators is implemented, a revamping would be needed to connect Texas with other grids.  See the map below.

USA Energy Grid

So here we have Robert F. Kennedy, a liberal democrat, and T. Boone Pickens, a conservative Republican thinking out-of-the box by calling for the decarbonization of the US economy.  If one looks further, Kennedy and Pickens are calling for not only the reduction of oil imported, but also the future possibility of running cars on “fuels” other can oil.  Natural gas cars, hybrids, electrical cars, and hydrogen cars.  On a recent trip to California I listed to a TV report on the opening of the first full service hydrogen fueling station for cars.  And a number of people drive around in cars fueled with natural gas (clearner) or electricity.

Both of these individuals are against additional drilling of oil off the U.S. coasts and in Alaska.  This is in sharp contrast to what many others are suggesting.  They (including the President, Candidate McCain, and many in Congress) suggest that to lessen America’s dependence on oil, increase the amount that American oil companies extract from the Permian rocks, refine it, and sell it to American drivers.  That’s the plan.  Problem is that additional oil will be sold to Japan, India or China, and it would be years before new explorations led to oil out of the ground.   So the net effect will be to increase dependency on imported oil, if no other changes were implemented, during this period.

Enter a third and interesting voice.  Thomas Friedman.  On June 22, Friedman wrote an Op-Ed column in the New York Times entitled “Mr. Bush, Lead or Leave.”  What Friedman was talking about was that two years ago Mr. Bush declared American was “addicted to oil,” and now the President is suggested that will drill off the coasts, and as Friedman puts it, “Get more addicted to oil.”  Friedman even goes on to call the President, “our addict-in-chief.”

Now along comes Pickens who is saying no new drilling.  Shift to wind for many of energy needs, and move cars away from oil to toward natural gas.  The question arises about the viability of natural gas as real alternative to oil for cars.  In Europe, natural gas has become more popular as an alternative, and indeed car manufacturers are running cars off the assembly line, and natural gas industry is making natural gas more available to car owners.  Hundreds of natural gas fueling stations have opened in Europe.

Students need to be involved in this debate.  It is not a matter of telling students, but enabling them to investigate the issue of energy, and what changes governments and societies need to make.  Some advocate a “green new deal” (Thomas Friedman), and students might want to read and watch videos of Friedman.  There are many other resources to help students to explore the important step that societies need to take for a green energy future.  Here are a few.