As I close out my fourth year of the GID project, I am thinking about some of the connections that my students make. First, I believe that science gets a bad rap. Yes, it IS hard, but not impossible. Students seem to have roadblocks in their minds about science and what it really means. Students were asked to connect their inquiry question with any part of a topic in physics. As soon as I said the word physics, students’ eyes got huge. They were not confident they understood what physics was. As we plugged along with the project this spring, I kept reminding students that they needed to relate their research back to physics.
But, what did that mean? These kids were really stressing out. So, one day, we took out the old-fashioned textbook. I asked students to flip through the book and see if there were any words/phrases/topics, etc. that they have seen within their research. The goal was to recognize that physics was embedded in their current research – it was implied through the articles that they were already reading.
For example, one student came after school one day. She really was panicking stating that there were no physics connections to her topic. I asked the student just to tell me, in her own words, what she had been reading. After the student says that ‘nothing about physics,’ she proceeds to describe the aurora borealis. I let her speak for about a minute. I stopped her and repeated one of her sentences….the aurora borealis consists of light (physics) with different wavelengths (physics) and speed of light (physics times two)…. I then asked – what are waves, what about the electromagnetic spectrum? The surprised look on this girl’s face when she realized that she was already reading about physics and it wasn’t a formal chapter that she had to learn about was fabulous.
I did, in fact, have several of these types of conversations with my students. It was great to see the relief and awareness that they had already made meaningful connections. While the textbook was helpful, conversations were also very important.