This is How Science Works

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This is How Science Works

The best 5 minutes for the first day of school

As we move into a new school year we and our students are being confronted by an increasing amount of fake news, fake pictures and a plethora of other distractions that threaten to overwhelm our well-being. From sharks swimming in the flooded waters of Houston post-Harvey to banal tweets filling the airwaves masquerading as news, the truth is succumbing to the avalanche of fake stories. Within this emerging new reality, I’m finding more and more my workshops have a component focused on developing critical thinking and critical literacy skills in our students.

Over the summer as I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts – Radiolab – I found a short clip that just might be the lead activity for many of my future workshops. I believe this because anyone who understands how we use Science to develop our understanding of the world, understands how to approach any news item or any other type of information that may, or may not, make us question its veracity. And in the tyranny of the moment we call the school day we sometimes forget that Science gives us a process for finding truth. So, to help set the tone for the school year I offer the 5-min introduction via RadioLab on How Science Works.

But, first a shout out to the lads at RadioLab, Jad (@JadAbumrad) and Robert (@rkrulwich). And their podcast Truth Warriors. I’ve embedded the whole podcast into this page, but the part you want to listen to is from 2:11 to 7:11. Here Robert is interviewing Neil deGrasse Tyson. In this short 5-min clip we hear how Neil takes a friendly disagreement with a Barista over whipping cream and turns it into a concise and clear explanation of how science works. And while this kind of activity is very difficult to replicate in a classroom, as educators we use other tools and activities to model and practice the processes of science. Consequently, I believe we all benefit when we start with Neil deGrasse Tyson’s words as our guide.

If you take this further, look at having the students or workshop participants represent their understanding of the podcast information. An infographic illustrating the process of science or a paragraph-sentence-headline summary activity would be engaging and relevant to enhancing an understanding of How Science Works.

And of course, this activity would work at any time, not just the first day of school!

Have a great start to your school year.