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How to Teach Science without Being A Scientist

 Heather C. Kent
Northwest District Regional Specialized Agent
NW District Office
3925 Highway 71
Marianna, FL   32446

The goal of the 4-H Science Initiative is to address America’s critical need for more scientists and engineers by engaging 1 Million youth by 2013.  4-H has been teaching science for the last 100 years, but the need for youth to be scientifically literate has never been more important to our nation.  Studies reveal that science literacy among school-age children in the United States is among the lowest in the developed world and the problem is worsening.  To ensure global competitiveness, we must act now to prepare the next generation of scientists and leaders.

As 4-H volunteers, you can help us prepare youth to be more scientifically literate, no matter what your educational background or project interest area.  Over the last few years, educators have realized that science, by its nature, inquiry-based.  Inquiry is an approach to learning that utilizes the rational powers and scientific thinking processes to explore and learn knowledge and skills.  Learning through inquiry is very different than the way most of us were taught as youth.  For starters, inquiry implies action on the part of the learner- youth seek answers to questions, and are not given answers.  This means, that volunteers do not need to be subject matter specialists, they just need to be naturally curious and know enough about the scientific process to help youth conduct their own investigations to answer a question, solve a problem, or test a hypothesis. 

4-H Science combines the strengths of the do-reflect-apply learning model (which is the foundation of all 4-H programs) with the inquiry-learning model.  If you are already familiar with the do-reflect-apply method, then you will be able to teach science inquiry with a little practice.�
1.When introducing a topic or lesson, begin by asking an open ended-question about what the learners already know (or think they know) about the topic.  Make a list of questions they have or what they would like to learn.�
2.Ask the youth to form a question or hypothesis on the topic
3.Ask youth to design an investigation about the topic- ahead of time, gather supplies or arrange for access to supplies that they might need, books, or other resources on the topic.  Allow ample time for youth to conduct their investigation or experiment.�
4.Ask the youth to make observations or collect data about their investigation, and then help them analyze the results.
5.Ask the youth to communicate the results of their investigation and ask them to apply those results to a real world situation.
6.Ask the youth if they are satisfied with their results.  If not, help them design a new investigation to address their question and begin the process over again.

Volunteering in the Panhandle

Permanent link to this article: http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2012/04/12/how-to-teach-science-without-being-a-scientist/