35. Science

Throughout school, as far as I can remember, I hated science. Science was, for me, what music was for other kids – something you just had to put up with. Being allergic to formaldehyde, I was unable to stand being in the room to disect frogs. When we had to do projects, I had no idea what to do. The summer of my sophomore year, I took a science class so that I could finish science in my junior year and be done with it. I had to take three science courses in college, and again, I hated it.
Teaching science to young children, I grew to love it. Whether we were studying astronomy, physics, biology, or any other science, the children’s curiosity and enthusiasm were contagious. It was hard to remember what I had not liked about it. I watched children for signs of the aversion I had felt, ready to help some child get through it, but the aversion just wasn’t there. I’m glad it wasn’t, and I hope it didn’t show up later.
The best science lessons I observed or taught were organized so that there was a minimum of time spent passing out materials. The children came into the room with materials already on their desks, and after a brief discussion (“What do you think will happen if you…?), they experimented with the materials. The teacher circulated around the room, asking questions, encouraging children, making suggestions. After a while, the teacher gathered the children to ask for observations and explanations. All serious answers were treated with respect.
I’m not sure how a student who hated science turned into a teacher who loved it. I do remember that when I was a child, I liked to try things, and see whether they worked. If it rained hard, afterwards I liked to go up Sweet Hollow Road, a mostly unused road behind our house, and dam up the water to make a lake. I remember watching dragonflies, turtles, and frogs by the pond near our house.
But none of that seemed to have anything to do with science. Science was boring facts you had to memorize, or projects you got bad grades on. It was periodic charts, and teachers who got annoyed when you didn’t understand or remember. I’m glad I got through that time. Let’s try to make sure children don’t have to.

Comments are closed.