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Identifying Unknowns: Real Science for Logic-Stage Students

Many teachers engaged in science education may recall that, when they themselves were students of high school chemistry, they were assigned the task of identifying an unknown solution. Such an assignment brilliantly thrusts the student into the heart of the scientific enterprise – namely, observation and experimentation. But why wait until so late in a student’s academic experience to introduce them to real science, especially when younger students are developmentally suited for such endeavors? Insofar as having students actually “do science” is a lofty, but altogether realistic goal of classical science education, why not get them started early in order to hone their skills of observation and experimentation? In this session, we’ll explore a three-stage “observation exercise” using unknown rock specimens that has proven to be a superb means of such honing among Logic-stage Earth Science students. Because the exercise is done in stages, the students move from being neophytes with no knowledge to practical experimenters to identifying rock types of particular specimens. As they advance in stages from the unknown to the known, these students do real science.