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

Science News in the Classroom

Posted on: September 20, 2009

Neil_deGrasse_Tyson_-_NAC_Nov_2005I was listening to my iPod this morning and I heard Neil deGrasse Tyson as a guest at a public symposium in Portland, Oregon.  It was published as part of the podcast “NOVA scienceNOW.”  I’m considering playing it for my class, it’s only 30 minutes long.

This sounds a lot like what goes on in my classroom on Fridays, only way more orderly and with microphones.  In my Conceptual Physics classes, my students have an assignment  on Wednesdays to print out a bit of science news, any area of science is fine.  They need to read the article and highlight key points.  I collect these and on Friday we have science news day, where we talk about anything science.  I use the articles as a starting point, and we quickly jump from topic to topic.  Nothing is off limits, they come up with a million questions.  Sometimes they go off and research something further from our discussions.

In addition to using this just to get them thinking about science, I use this to get across certain agenda items.  A couple of the news items were cut and pasted into word to make it easier to print.  I asked the kids to make sure they note the site it came from, I need the source so I can go back and read more.  We talked about good and bad sources.  Another student had an article on the 2012 predictions.  The first paragraph talked about some scientists needing facts, but the authors were going on “instincts.”  I did the pen and shoe drop, asking them about their predictions.  I emphasized that scientists guts can be a starting point, but facts are the only things we trust.

This week, an additional assignment is going to be to write a question about science that they have wanted to know the answer to.  I’ll may pick from those to get the conversation started or  I may put up a “great question” list and let them research a question and present the answer for extra credit.

I was going to imbed the podcast or attach the file for download, but WordPress wants me to upgrade from a free blog to do that.  Go to the iTunes store and search for NOVA ScienceNOW.  I tried the NOVA website, but they don’t make it any easier to link to the file.

Dr. Tyson has a couple of great responses.  One is about using his own children as an experiment in getting kids to be science literate.  It’s worth listening to for just that one.  There’s more, go listen.

After you listen to it, tell me if you would play it in the classroom.  I’m a little wary of audio only, kids tend to listen with their heads on the desks and it can be hard to get them back up.

Update – The kids enjoyed it.  At first, they were reluctant (no pictures), but I stopped it half way through and offered to switch to science news.  They asked in all three classes to continue the audio.  I know they like science news, so that was encouraging.  I think they honestly enjoyed the change of pace and learned a little something from someone else.


6 Responses to "Science News in the Classroom"

I haven’t gone to listen to your suggested podcast yet, but I’ve been subscribing (not always listening) to Nova Science Now for quite a while. I had great intentions of playing some them for my classes – even bought an Ipod dock, but the only one I’ve played is the Prime Number Conjecture which is tee most awesome song ever – sort of a School House Rock event.

The podcasts I have are only a few minutes long each, I think.

Oh, to have time in the curriculum to have a discussion class, every week, on general science topics. I’m so jealous.

Hey Raidergirl, it’s nice to know I have at least one regular fan. This particular episode is 31 minutes, but you are right, most are 5 min or less.

I really don’t have the time for a discussion every week, but this year I’m going to make the time. I could move to a suburban school where the curriculum is all planned out for me, but I choose to stay here because I get to work at the pace the kids can handle. The best thing a student said to me last year is, “You made me into a science nerd.” I did, and I’m so proud of that. She’s now a science nerd for life and it’s my fault. It’s what gets me up in the morning.

I’ve seen the curriculum for AP physics and I don’t understand the need to cover so much material in such a short amount of time. Everything I learned in graduate school points towards deep learning rather than speed and quantity. I have a hard time believing students understand much of anything based on how fast they move.

So I make a little less money and make a big difference for a few kids. I can live with that.

[…] you’re interested in this, read the post Science News in the Classroom. Feel free to suggest any other ways you use current events stories in your […]

“I study myself more than any other subject; it is my metaphysic, and my physic.”

Do you grade these?

All of my homework gets a grade out of 5 points. For most, they either did it or they didn’t. Same with the science news.

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