Friday, November 18, 2016

Scientist Maker or Scientist Breaker

When I attended the NSTA conference in Nashville, I scored an awesome t-shirt that said the following:

#ScientistMaker

This phrase made me SO happy!  I took pride in wearing my scientist maker shirt, because as a science enthusiast and science teacher, I would like to think that I am a scientist maker. But then it hit me, if I could be a scientist maker then there was a possibility that I could also be a scientist breaker.

Hmmmmmmm.

I wondered, which of these am I?  Do kids that take my class really enjoy science?  Do I create a spark within them that makes them passionate about the world around them?  Do any of them want to become scientists? Or am I pouring water on that flame of learning?  Am I turning them off to the awesomeness of science?  Did I prevent any of them from wanting to pursue a science/engineering degree?

I can't help but wonder, what are the characteristics of a scientist maker and breaker?  I put together a table.

Scientist Maker
Scientist Breaker
  • Let kids explore and learn by doing
  • Let kids design their own experiments
  • Give freedom with projects
  • Allow students to challenge concepts
  • Read real world research and argue its validity
  • Explore WHY something happens
  • Make science videos
  • Learn about concepts
  • Concept rich content
  • Assessments focused on application of science

  • Have kids take notes and listen
  • Have kids do recipe experiments
  • Do very few projects
  • Does not allow students to challenge concepts
  • Read the textbook and do a worksheet
  • Be told WHY something happens
  • Watch science videos
  • Learn about chapters
  • Vocabulary rich content
  • Assessment focused on what students know


I am sure there are many more than this, but what it boils down to is the following:
  • Scientist Makers want students to DO and KNOW science
  • Scientist Breakers want students to KNOW
I enjoy meeting and talking to people in industry.  I often times ask them, "What made you want to become a _____________________?"  You would be shocked to know how many of them state that some school teacher excited them about the topic so they decided to become a historian, engineer, doctor, nurse, etc.  I know I ended up studying science because I had two amazing science teachers that really challenged my thinking and let my play with science concepts.  If you are a science teacher, what made you want to do that? Was it another teacher?  If you had not had that teacher, do you think you still would have become a science teacher?

Let's be honest, when kids take our class they will either find the topic interesting or not.  If we don't do our job well, we could steer the next Tesla, Hawking or Einstein away from science.  We could prevent a child from seeing their full potential as a researcher or engineer because we are more focused on teaching content than giving them a scientific experience.  Why are we so hung up on giving a test to see if they can identify the steps of mitosis?!  WHO CARES if they can identify the steps of mitosis!!!!  Isn't it more important that all kids understand that cancer occurs because the cell cycle gets screwed up?!  Isn't it more important that kids understand the faster you are going in your car, the longer it is going to take to stop so stop going so fast?!  Why are we teachers so caught up with the trees, that we forget about the damn FOREST?!

I ask you, fellow science teachers:  are you a scientist maker or are you a scientist breaker?  This is a HUGE question!!!!!!

We literally have the control to mold the most precious commodity our world has:  our children.  We control the learning experience our children receive.  It is our duty, our responsibility, our calling to become scientist makers.  If you are not willing to do this, then SCIENCE TEACHER, it is time you retire or quit.  It is not your job to prepare these kids to take college biology, college chemistry or college physics.  It is your job to let them experience science so they can decide if they want to take college biology, college chemistry or college physics.  You are NOT the gatekeeper!

So, yeh....it looks like NGSS and NSTA wants us teachers to be Scientist Makers.  I will happily accept that challenge! 

NSTA...we are going to need more #ScientistMaker shirts, please.