|One of the most exciting aspects of teaching science is conveying how science is done and engaging students in the process of discovery for themselves. History of science is one of the best resources for this (see below). Here are several ready-to-use curriculum modules, organized by grade level and subject, shared by a group of Minnesota teachers under the sponsorship of SciMath-MN and The Bakken Museum.|
Third grade students study mystery powders to understand physical and chemical properties and their changes, while learning about the chemists who first made those discoveries historically.
In the fourth, fifth and sixth grade, students research these historical chemists in more depth, enacting them in vignettes, and teaching their findings to the third graders.
Plant dyes allow you to integrate student invesitgations, history and art. Students learn about the interaction of controlled experiments and trial-and-error while exploring different plant sources, fibers, colors, mordants, and large scale dyeing. They then use their dyed products in various creative handcraft projects, such as basic stitchery. They can also learn about the important historical, geographical and economic roles of dyes, such as indigo, and can role-play an important woman of Colonial times who introduced it to the U.S.
Help students to understand vacuums and the effects of air pressure by guiding them through investigations of phenomena that initiated important discoveries about air pressure in the 17th century.
Recording observations of a candle has been a long-time favorite exercise for teaching about the nature of observation--but not everyone knows that it was introduced over one hundred years ago by Michael Faraday. Here, some of the details of Faraday's life, his approaches to science and education add new life to this favorite exercise.
Encourage students to think about the concepts of time and space by seeing how they have been viewed at different times in history and in different cultures--including Nigeria.
Dmitri Mendeleev's triumphant discovery of the structure of periodicity is well known. This exercise reveals a bit more of the process of science by challenging students to detect patterns even when everything is not perfectly organized.
Teach about the most common molecules in our lives as a way to introduce organic chemistry into your standard chemistry course. Include demonstrations showing how easy they can be to make. The stories of their original discovery also help convey an important feature of the process of science: the pursuit of "accidental" discoveries.
Western studies of the centuries-old Chinese practice of acupuncture offer an opportunity to discuss both controlled experiments and the cultural contexts of scientific method.
But history can be valuable for other reasons, as well. First, historical case studies allow teachers to convey an understanding of the nature of science--how scientists pose questions, design experiments, interpret results, generate alternative hypotheses and decide between them. They also provide an excellent opportunity for talking about the cultural, economic and ethical contexts of science--and how scientific discoveries, in turn, fit in society and relate to other fields of study. History also shows how scientific knowledge changes, leading students to appreciate both the achievements and limits of science.
Even more important, perhaps, history provides a context for understanding how students learn fundamental concepts. Students, like their historical counterparts, are learning concepts for the first time--without prior knowledge about the significance of those concepts. History shows what originally motivated various investigations, often in ways that students today can appreciate. History can also reveal common preconceptions of various topics, conceptions that must be transformed if teaching is to be effective. Historical debates often show how to address such misconceptions. History is thus an important tool for a constructivist classroom, where students "construct" their own knowledge by confronting and developing new explanations for discrepant events drawn from history.
The important role of history and nature of science among objectives in science education has been recognized in several emerging national standards for science education. The National Research Council's National Science Education Content Standards , for example, specify standards for learning:
These historical and philosophical themes guided the teachers who assembled the curriculum modules listed above. We hope that you will find them valuable tools for teaching specific concepts more effectively, while also conveying something about the process of science.
For more information and resources on history and philosophy of science in science teaching is available at the SHiPS Resource Center.