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One of my early blog posts banged on the scientific method as it is used in many science classrooms as a poor model for teaching science. My point was that when we teach kids science is foolproof when you follow some simple steps, we don’t develop the skills needed to actually go do innovative science.
Last week I pulled out a lab activity that I use each year to introduce momentum. The kids usually enjoy this one as it involves rolling a bowling ball down a hill…plus they get to go outside. However, as soon as I skimmed through the handout I knew I was in trouble. I was about to give my students a series of procedure steps that lead them to a predictable conclusion. Their hypothesis would never be in doubt. Surprise! A bowling ball has more momentum than a beachball! Ick.
I know that if I’m going to advocate for authentic learning through challenge-based PBL I’m going to have to come up with some better ideas. How can I teach science content and throw out traditional lab methodology?
This is easier to say than to do. I was stumped and resigned myself to running the lab as written while vowing to rewrite it later. Then a crazy idea floated across my brain as I drove to school. What if I made the exercise about leadership rather than momentum?