In my 25th year of teaching and my second year of teaching science, I am both experienced and new. So when I am dissatisfied with my practice I find a way to act to improve it. This month I experimented with experiments.
My third graders are an unruly bunch. In classes of 31, all armpit farts and side conversation giggles, they are a tough bunch when they come into my lab. But put a living thing in their hands and they are enraptured. We studied snails and crayfish, and there was never enough time to satisfy them.
One of my goals as a science teacher is to demonstrate that I value questioning. Children value knowing the answers (often pretending they do even if they don’t.) I celebrate good questions by posting them on “A good question is golden” chart. The crayfish questions erupted into their own long chart.
So we took the crayfish questions from the three classes and sorted them into wonderings we would need to research and questions we could test. Answer with experiments, using our very own crayfish.
But of course the unit was over, the classes moving on to a social studies unit and other grades coming to lab. But I decided I could give up some of my lunch time for students that would give up some of their recess time. I have been inviting small groups of third graders who volunteer to come in to test crayfish questions.
We choose a question, design a simple investigation, figure out how to record our data into a chart, try it out, and write a sentence telling our findings. So far we have tested: Do crayfish prefer darkness or light? What makes crayfish raise their claws? Where do crayfish prefer to be (corner of the bin, middle of the bin, in a clear “house”, in a dark “house”)? And the ever-popular What do crayfish like best to eat?
Simple questions, simple experiments, but to my third grade friends watching the second hand on my watch to make the next observation, figuring out which box on the data chart in which to enter it, wondering more and more as one finding leads to more questions…
They are delighted with themselves and I am delighted by them. I am reminded of their sweet curiosity and earnest effort. An experiment worth making.