Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers

Science Teachers – Stand up for Science

Posted on: January 8, 2009


I’ve always been a lover of science and I’ve had my early bouts with pseudoscience.  I think if you talk to most science lovers, we all investigated several topics in pseudoscience.  Let’s face it, I would love for UFO’s to be space aliens.  And who wouldn’t want to have a superpower?  But they aren’t and we don’t.

As a teacher, I was originally amused by it.  Now I battle it head on.  Many people take a “what’s the harm” view of these topics.  I think that is dangerous.  We need to teach our students to use critical thinking skills.  My wife doesn’t get this.  She thinks the Eagles will lose if she is in the room where the TV has the game on.  I usually respond by telling her that the Eagles management called before the game started and they asked her to please not watch.  Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  If we believe in one form of hocus-pocus, we fall prey to the next one.

Check out the website whatstheharm.net.  You will get a sense of what happens when we sit by and allow mysticism to rule instead of science.  The page comes off a bit militant, but the underlying facts should at least make you think.  Perhaps one of the more dangerous trends are the anti-vaccination groups.  They want us to think there is a mass conspiracy and vaccines are bad.  What they are doing is actually causing outbreaks of diseases by reducing the “herd immunity.”  The herd immunity, if I understand it correctly, essentially doesn’t give a disease enough places to gestate and grow.  When the population reaches a certain vaccination level, say 95%, then the entire population is basically protected from epidemics.  If the population gets under that threshold, we are opening ourselves up to serious problems.  Don’t trust me, do your own research.  In other words …

Be a skeptic.  I don’t like the word because most people don’t understand what it means.  They think a skeptic is a nay-sayer.  A skeptic simply insists on proof.  The more outrageous the claim, the more proof is required.  A skeptic changes their position if the facts lead them down a different path.  My skeptical radar goes off any time someone says, “they say….”  It’s as simple as someone telling me, “they say it’s going to snow 12 inches tonight.”  Rather than take the store clerk’s weather knowledge on faith, my response is to check the weather forecast when I got home.  Not an outrageous claim for January, so it doesn’t require much proof.  I just want the facts directly from the experts, not second, third, or fourth hand.

There are a number of outstanding skeptical podcasts that are highly entertaining, educational, and just plain fun to listen to.  You can find them on iTunes for free.  If you aren’t listening to podcasts, you are missing a world of excellent quality entertainment.

I highly recommend:

  • Skepticality
  • A Skeptics Guide to the Universe
  • Are We Alone?  SETI Science and Skepticism
  • Science Talk: The Podcast of Scientific American

These are a few of my favorites.  There are more, but these will get you started.  After listening to a few of these shows I realized I’ve been a skeptic my entire life.  I didn’t know there was a name for it, and more importantly, I didn’t know there was a whole community of people out there just like me.

You are not alone.

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4 Responses to "Science Teachers – Stand up for Science"

Ironically, I am skeptical about the skeptics page 🙂 I was particularly interested in the Chiropractor and related pages. I go to a chiropractor and I have gone for many, many years. I find that it helps me. It appears that there is the possibility of having a stroke while being manipulated. It appears to be fairly rare since millions of people of people get adjusted a year and the number of people with strokes seems to be fairly small. I can also get a stroke from birth control medication and from flying in an airplane.

The thing that really amuses me is that further down on the page, they talk about the anti-vaccine movement.

I’ve recently started doing Kundalini Yoga and have picked up a book entitled “Meditation as Medicine” that I’ve started to read. There appears to be some validity in what they are saying and what I am experiencing. I don’t think that either should take the place of my doctor. And guess what, there are regular doctors who are incompetent as well.

I guess this part touched a nerve. *shrugs*

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Kate

http://educationonline-101.com

Do your students ever ask anything like, “Why are we learning this, we’ll never use this in our real lives.”

If so, what do you tell them? I see that skepticism can be one thing. And I know of other things, but I can never seem to convey this to them. Maybe I’m just not making things as interesting as you are.

Hi Christen, No, I don’t get that anymore, at least not with my physics students. When I taught Conceptual Physics I would get that question because many of them couldn’t connect the dots between science and anything. So it may not be you.

One thing I do is try to connect what we learn with videos and activities. I have video called Car Crash Tech I found on Discovery or another science channel several years ago. That one connects all of our physics with the safety features of a car. I just showed Apollo 13. I started with the “Making of” segments and talked about the Vomit Comet and how they moved the stage onto the airplane. After that, they could pick out the scenes in the movie that were done in free fall.

I hope this helped. If you need more, contact me directly.

On Thu, Mar 7, 2013 at 11:46 AM, Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers

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What’s New in 2013/2014?

Every year brings a change, this one is no exception.

I will be picking up the sophomore honors Algebra II class to keep them separate from the juniors. This should help accelerate them and put them on a stronger track towards Calculus. Looks like there will be only one section each of Physics and Calculus, but still two of Robotics & Engineering.

Hot topics this year are going to be the Common-Core Standards, Standards-Based Grading (SBG), improving AP Calculus scores, and somehow adding Python, maybe as a club.

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