get science by Brian Clegg is aimed at an audience of elementary school teachers who are unsure about teaching science in their classrooms. Although I’m not part of his target group, I’m close to her. (I love science and teach to small groups of homeschooled students.) Clegg did some things writers should do. He caught my attention, told me things I needed to read or wanted to learn, and kept my attention throughout the book. I learned a bit and consolidated my previous knowledge. It is a good book and after reading it I hope that many primary school teachers will read it.
Clegg begins his writing with reasons why science can be a little scary. Journal articles and scholarly writing in general are stuffy, using pompous words instead of easy-to-understand everyday language. Scientific articles have not always been written this way, and certainly do not need to be written this way, but it is custom and tradition today. It takes a little effort to sift through this language, but luckily you don’t have to. You can be an effective and fun science teacher without the stuffy journals. Instead, learn by reading popular books and science shows.
Clegg also talks about what science is and should be. Science is an adventure. It should be fun. It should fill you with wonder. Science is trying to figure out how the universe works. That doesn’t sound that scary, does it?
The first chapter is about how to involve the children in the lesson. People like people, so he suggests putting the science in context and finding it in real life. Who was the scientist who made the discovery? How did this scientist grow up? What in his or her life made him think and experiment the way he did to make the discovery? Along with the people involvement and a bit of history, you’ll find the science in real life. If you talk about cell division, you could mention bread making and maybe bring yeast into the classroom. He suggests sprinkling the discussion with amazing and crude facts. Kids like it gross. He emphasizes that children should make things with their hands. It’s better to watch a demonstration than just hear about it, but it’s best to let the children do the experiment or demonstration themselves. We learn by doing. And above all, it’s fun.
Finally, teachers should read the first chapter of the book.
The second chapter talks about why we have labs. Humans are not good observers. Many people don’t know the difference between causation and correlation. Anecdotes are not data. Refuting is much easier than proving. All of these human facts lead to why we have labs. Thankfully, labs are no longer just filled with middle-aged white men in lab coats, and personalities of all kinds can be found in science labs.
Clegg, in his third chapter, talks about different scientific epochs. 500 BC to AD 1500 is the Classic Period. During this period, the prevailing “theory” prevailed because it was successfully argued. There really wasn’t much science involved. Some of that classical thinking still exists today in the form of astrology and the four elements. The clockwork era of science lasted from AD 1500 (late medieval period) to about AD 1900. This era was filled with scientific discoveries and theories that make sense. Newton said that force equals mass times acceleration. That makes sense. Spontaneous theories of generation disappeared because people discovered that flies laid eggs on raw meat. Clegg calls the current era counterintuitive. That said, this era of science doesn’t seem to make sense. Just think of the terms quantum theory, theory of relativity and light is light but it can behave like a wave or a particle.
Chapters 4, 5, and 6 are about cool things in science, and Clegg offers suggestions for learning and teaching the topics. what is life Why don’t humans have fur? How does cloning work, what are the five states of matter (yes, five. It’s not just solid, liquid and gas). How do mirrors work? What is the difference between mass and weight? What are black holes? What are wormholes? His explanations are pretty easy to follow.
Chapter 7 advocates making science hands-on. Chapter 8 is about finding and seeing science in the real world and how to bring experiments to life, but not in a Strange Science like way. Chapter 9 deals with science on the Internet. Which websites are trustworthy and how can you tell if a website is trustworthy? He also gives tips for searching the Internet. Chapter 10 gives ideas on how to keep up with science and Chapter 11 challenges you to inspire the world.
The book was easy to read and didn’t take long. Nevertheless, it has managed to pack a lot of good information into it. Are you a primary or primary school teacher? If so, head to your library and check out this little treasure.
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