Sep 1, 2011

6th Grade Wows and Wonders in East Oakland

I love teaching science to middle school because middle school kids still love science. There is still very little science-phobia in middle school, especially with 6th graders. They feed their natural curiosity by asking never-ending, out-of-the box questions and by touching, feeling, smelling, and even tasting everything. During lab demonstrations, I have students record a "Wow, Wonder, and Aha!". A "wow" is an observation of a phenomena, a "wonder" is a question about the phenomena, and an "aha!" is a "this reminds me of..." statement (in other words, a possible connection between the phenomena we witness and something we've experienced before as an attempt to understand the phenomena).

The kids are delightfully enthralled by why one yellow liquid (water and dye) and another yellow liquid (oil) react differently with a blue liquid (water and dye). They marvel at the surface tension properties of water (they were amazed at the fact that more than 30 drops of water is able to sit atop a leveled dime).

Curiosity is science, no?

I'm still feeling the waters in terms of how to teach science to 6th graders. I decided to start the course off by opening with a unit called "What is Science?" I wanted to introduce the topic of observations and wonder statements as the basis of science.

Their homework assignment during the first week was to look around their home and their neighborhood and record "data" about things that they see, hear, feel, taste, and smell. They were to then write a "wonder statement" to go with each observation. I admit, I had no idea what I was getting myself into -- I did not know that their questions would be so far-reaching.

Here are some of their data and queries:

-"I smelled my dogs poop. Why does her poop smell like that?"

-"I felt the Ipad? Why is it so hard?"

-"I hear my mom yell. What causes her to yell."

-"I tasted tacos from my mom's kitchen. What were the ingredients in the tacos?"

-"I smell garbage in my neighbor's lawn. Why does it smell like this?"

-"I feel sleepy in the morning. This makes me wonder why im sleepy."

-"I here happieness. How did I get here."

-"When did my enviorment become bad."

-"I smell smoke. How can I smell smoke but not see fire?"

-"I taste rice pudding with toasted bread. Why is rice white? Why is the bread brown? What ingridients does it have in it?"

-"I smell oil. Why do I smell oil."

-"I hear dogs barking and sometimes sounds like guns. I wonder what make those gun noises."

-"I hear the train when they go by. How is the train so loud when it goes by."

-"I can see the colesium outside. Why are the lights so bright."

-"I feel danger. When did my neighborhood become bad."