At a Glance
The “Science of Me” is a program for middle school science designed to provide students and teachers an authentic science experience based upon an investigation of the properties of human sensory perception. Many students decide before high school that they do not want to major in STEM (Science, technology, engineering, math) subjects. They may have decided that STEM subjects are not interesting or they may have been intimated by mathematics. Other students are more interested in people than things and may find many science subjects irrelevant to their interests. Our program is designed to engage both types of students by focusing on the science of people, in particular, themselves. The program focuses on human sensory perception as the foundation of scientific inquiry.
“Science of me” program
This program is intended to augment the normal science curriculum by helping students understand how science is done, enabling them to participate in the process, and encouraging them to do their own project to present at a science fair. Nearly all science activities designed for schools require the students to demonstrate an established scientific principle by getting the “right” answer. That experience is analogous to studying art by taking an art history class rather than by doing art in a painting class. Science is the exploration of the unknown and hence the answer cannot be known a priori. We want our students to have an authentic experience of science.
Our program is designed as a one year augmentation of the normal middle school science curriculum. Schools typically follow a prescribed curriculum for the three middle school years that emphasizes a sequence of topics. Standards have recently encouraged incorporating aspects of how to think and behave like a scientist. For example, the Cambridge curriculum for 7th grade encourages the following behaviors as part of the Inquiry Process:
Concept 1: Observations, Questions, and Hypotheses Formulate predictions, questions, or hypotheses based on observations. Locate appropriate resources.
Concept 2: Scientific Testing (Investigating and Modeling) Design and conduct controlled investigations
Concept 3: Analysis and Conclusions Analyze and interpret data to explain correlations and results; formulate new questions
Concept 4: Communication Communicate results of investigations. But teachers find it difficult to teach these concepts because they have not had the appropriate experience themselves and because the prescribed curriculum does not actually engaged students in authentic scientific exploration. Our program provides an augmentation to the standard curriculum that allows students to explore the unknown and thus lends itself to behaving like a scientist.
Implementing the program
We are beginning with a program for a 7th grade science course at University Preparatory Academy in Phoenix, as school administered by Arizona State. The Arizona students come from local, mostly poor, families who live in the school neighborhood. There is no selection for high achieving students. I will work with two middle school science teachers and the program will be offered to all three 7th grade science classes, a total of about 75 students. The program will consist of about 12 one hour classes held during the normal science period, with about 1 program class every two weeks. After this in-class intervention students will be encouraged and mentored to each design and complete an individual (or small group) project for presentation at science fair at the end of the year. A parallel program is being initiated by Indika Rajapakse at a middle school in Ann Arbor Michigan