New Teachers

Making science fun

How does a new teacher make science fun for students who hate science? I have come across a few students who have expressed to me when I ask them why they aren't participating or turning in work that is below of what they actually know, they tell me it's because they hate science. I like to do labs in the class, but you can only do so many labs before the students become exhausted in your classroom. What can I do differently to engage those students and get them excited about the class? 

Sarah Pack
Sarah Pack
244 Activity Points

Sarah, I am a preservice teacher at the University of Northern Iowa, and I am also always trying to make science more engaging for students. This semester I had multiple opportunities to teach science; I taught lessons in Kindergarten, 5th grade, and 3rd grade. In my third grade classroom, I worked with the curriculum AmplifyScience. It is relatively new and expensive, so many schools have not adopted it yet, but something that I like about it that you could incorportate into your own science lessons is that it actually is very student driven. There is a teacher-directed side where you give the students the focus questions and unit topics, but a lot of the research and inquiry aspects of this curriculum rely heavily on student questioning. The students can ask their own questions and search for data to support their claims, which makes them more engaged in what they are doing. Analyzing documents and data and doing think pair share works well too because students can work with others and then have class discussions about what they would like to explore or a conjecture they might have about the current focus question. 

Josie Asklund
Josie Asklund
2755 Activity Points

Sarah,

I think rapport with students is critical in trying to influence their views on your content area. Before you can try to make them have fun and fall in love with science, they first need to like you and enjoy being in your classroom. After this, perhaps you could try being overly enthusiastic about the topic. Show them how excited you are about the topic and activities and hopefully, some of this enthusiasm will transfer to your students. Make sure to offer plenty of praise especially to students who are not fans of science. Tell them how they are doing amazing and are naturals. Boost their confidence in science. If this isn't the issue, perhaps you could try to include more differentiation in your activities to engage multiple personalities. I love to use choice boards for this!

Camillia Ledbetter
Camillia Ledbetter
785 Activity Points

As a pre-service teacher I have seen science taught in multiple ways. The main way that I have seen science taught in my field placements that engage students is by the use of hands-on experiences that are student driven. It is important to let the students discover and develop an interest in the material before being told what they are learning about. It is also important to actively engage with the students during the hands-on activities and to show your enthusiasm while teaching. Positive reinforcement and engaging topics will help with making science fun.

Lydia Johnson
Lydia Johnson
500 Activity Points

You can try asking them what their interests are and try building those into your lessons. Some interests may be easier than others to connect to science, but a good way to get students invested is to build on what they like. It also might be good to ask the students why they hate science. They might have had a bad experience in a previous class. You will need to help them get over that and re-build their science self-efficacy.

Shannon Navy
Shannon Dubois
1029 Activity Points

Thank you for sharing this idea. I am a preservice teacher and this is one thing that makes me nervous, getting students engaged in the lessons that I will be teaching. 

Morgan Starbeck
Morgan Starbeck
1575 Activity Points

Thanks for creating this forum Sarah, you are not alone in this challenge and I look forward to following this thread as people add valuable input and suggestions. This is a quesiton I often ask veteran teachers and its both refreshing and kind of daunting to hear that most of them admit that its a challenge that they face year after year, this is because you teach new individuals with new peronalized interests and challenges each semester.

As you mentioned labs are a great way to engage studetns but for most teachers and students doing labs everyday isnt a practicle solution. I am glad to see that somebody on the forum suggested focusing on studtent interest. It takes some time and work to get to know your students but once you do and they open up to you about what really interests them you should do your best to build lessons into or around some of those interests as frequently as possible. As you are probably aware you should not expect 100% of your lessons to reach 100% of the students interest, but doesnt mean you can't try.

Building off of Josie's post I would also suggest frequent transitions and opportunity for exploration, discussions and creating/making things. It's alot more work but when you are not doing labs I would try to keep direct instruction to a minimum and you may see more engagement even if they do not love the content they are being taught. 

Laurence Taylor
Laurence Taylor
635 Activity Points

Hi Laurence! I really like the idea of transitioning frequently into different opportunities. Having the ability to learn about a subject that you just explored and did some research on can be a very powerful way to learn. Using exploration or creation can also engage a wide variety of students, as many students are curious or hands on it reaches all of their needs or a wide variety of needs in a single lesson. I can see how using this method would result in many students being able to take away something from the day's lesson. 

Harley Kitching
Harley Kitching
597 Activity Points

Science has many things to offer students even if they are not interested in directly studying nature. The practice of science requires philosophy and logic which are rules of thought that enable us to be more certain of our thinking. In my middle school science classroom, I teach Claim-Evidence-Reason and the use of models to test our knowledge of what we have studied and to extend our understanding. The practice of science also makes use of the four parts of literacy: scientists read the scientific literature and write journal articles to share what they have learned with others. However, scientists also work on teams interacting as colleagues and have team discussions in conference rooms where speaking and listening to others with deep knowledge in other disciplines facilitates rapid learning.

One activity that I enjoy assigning to my students on short days, which emphasizes the four parts of literacy (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) is to have them choose an article in Science News For Students (https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/) in the content area that we are studying. They then read the article that they chose, and in a Google Doc template that I made they through writing tell me what they learned. They then share what they learned by speaking to their pair-partner, and also listening to their pair-partner shair what he/she learned. The student then writes telling me the teacher what they learned from listening to their pair-partner share about their reading.

Jeremy Goforth
Jeremy Goforth
1396 Activity Points

I try to find ways to link the information back to topics they enjoy. I think it would be interesting to have them create a list of things they enjoy and then as a group link those topics back to science or how science has helped enable those activities to happen. Some of the students in my class linked Minecraft to biomes. That is something I never would have thought of until they brought it up themselves. 

Lily Albertson
Lily Albertson
500 Activity Points

I have noticed with students I have worked with that a demonstration can go a long ways. Using something super simple that there is strong science behind can peek a students intrest quickly. Examples of this would be the whoosh bottle in physical science or chemistry. Also making something that students can relate to and understand like making ice cream. Demonstrations and simple labs can be very beneficial to student attitude towards the subject. We have to first learn about what interests our students before we can engage them in the material.

Harley Kitching
Harley Kitching
597 Activity Points

I am currently a pre-service elementary teacher and have seen the same situation in my placements. The cooperating teacher I am currently with tries to create science lessons that revolve around topics these students find interesting and slowly they come around to liking science. Sometimes it is a matter of them just not liking the topic or feeling that they are uncapable of successfully completing a science experiment or activity. So when they do participate she provides extra postive reinforcements and praises them on how well they have done.

Keri Eagle
Keri Eagle
590 Activity Points

Hi Sarah, 

I recently read Why, How, and Where to View Totality by Charles Fulco and he touches on the problem of engaging students into a science curriculum. He explained that by allowing students to experience science for themselves is a great way to keep them engaged. This is a great way to allow students to connect their experiences with the course content. Learning through traditional methods are not always as effective for all students. By teaching lessons in accordance with the different learning styles, it will definitely increase your class' engagement. Also, Fulco offered the idea of trying to show a passion for what you are teaching to the students. By exhibiting a love for the material it will draw the students in more.

Zamarria Brake
Zamarria Brake
3205 Activity Points

I am on my journey to becoming a teacher. From many courses I have taken, I have learned that an interest inventory of students can be taken to find out what students are interested in and what they like/love. Teaching to interests allows students to be more engaged in the material and find deeper connections/meaning with the content being taught. 

Mason Gotto
Mason Gotto
2640 Activity Points

As a future teacher, I understand that I will have students who don't enjoy science, because I was one of those students. I remember science largely being taught through a textbook, rather than through hands-on experiences, and student-designed experiments. From what I've learned in my teaching courses, and time spent in science classrooms, students are more engaged when they are able to explore, collaborate, discuss, and experiment. Student-centered science instruction can foster a learning environment that values student input and exploration.

Hailey Traver
Hailey Traver
2010 Activity Points

Dear Sarah,

This depends on what you are teaching, how, who your students are as individuals, and what they are genuinely interested in. Do you use student inquiry to drive your guiding questions? Are you using locally-based phenomenae? Do you provide options to students who might actually just be bored? How do you try to get to know them as individuals so that you can try to connect with their lives and interests?

It's true that some students have gotten a bad taste in their mouth for science after having it taught to them in old ways of having to memorize and regurgitate facts (you know, like college - the old "memorize and dump" routine). If you can find a way to get the students to ask questions you can then guide them toward answering those questions in a way which requires some understanding of the subject matter.

Jake Schulke
Jake Schulke
1035 Activity Points

Hi Sarah, 

 I think one way to make science more fun for students who may not enjoy it as much is to try to connect the content that they may like. You could also connect it to real life situations. I think also knowing what kind of "learner" they are will help as well. If they are a hands-on learner, then try to gear lessons that are hands on or in small groups. If they are more independent, then work with them to set personal goals on the content. 

Andrea Herren
Andrea Herren
905 Activity Points

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