Ask a grade 7 student “What is Science?” and they will tell you it’s “what we know and how we know it.” That is to say, we understand science to be not only a set of facts and figures to learn but also a way of thinking and learning about the world. It is a tool that helps us understand the world around us by evaluating evidence from our observations and experiments. This philosophy is reflected in all of our science classes at the Junior School.
For example, grade 6 students have been learning facts about planets, galaxies and space exploration. In the process, they are practicing how to gather information from a variety of sources. Meanwhile our kindergarten and grades 1, 2, 5 and 7 students have been immersed in exploring how scientists use experiments to generate new knowledge. At the same time, they are mastering topics like how our bones are formed, the differences between chemical and physical changes, density, and the factors that affect reaction rates.
Our JKs, grade 3s and grade 4s have been immersing themselves in another scientific skill: the observation of the natural world. Our grade 4s are looking forward to dissecting owl pellets in order to understand what these impressive birds eat and how they fit into their ecosystems; they have also been using observation to refine their engineering designs in BrainBreakers class. The grade 3s took a field trip to the Jericho Forest and marsh area in order to make observations about local biodiversity.
As we’ve seen since the beginning of the pandemic, and now with the dramatic impacts of climate change we see in the recent news, this ability to understand how scientists make their claims and how to assess the validity of those claims is more important than ever. In focusing on teaching our students content through application of the skills and tools of scientists, we aim to equip them with the science literacy they need to make sense of the wealth of information around them.
Parents can help develop this science literacy at home by engaging students in a questioning mindset. If your student is wondering about something they have heard on the news or social media, invite them to consider where the information came from originally. Ask questions like “Do you think that information is reliable? Why or why not?” If your child asks why something works, brainstorm together how you could design an experiment to find out.