Since the start of the school year, Long-View scientists have been collaborating in small groups to develop their understanding of experimental design.  Because we will be using these skills in our science practice all year, it is important to start off with a strong basic grasp of how to how to design and perform a fair test experiment, how to look for patterns and trends in our data, and how to make evidence-based claims that answer the questions we explore with our work.  In order to support sense-making of what our data is actually revealing to us about our questions, we also spent time learning about science concepts like force, velocity, gravity and friction. 

This models the approach to science that we take at Long-View.  Our primary focus as a school is on supporting each child’s growth in terms of collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication.  Within science block, we look to real-world science and engineering practices to facilitate this growth.  Specific facts and concepts, while part of the curriculum, are not the focus of each day’s instruction.  In many ways, this is an inversion of the traditional way that science is taught. 

During a recent class discussion, learners were asked to reflect on the role of creativity in science.  After having spent several weeks designing and executing their own experiments to explore the topics of force and motion, students had a lot to say!  One theme was that asking questions and developing a fair test experiment can be very creative, but when it comes time to execute the experiment, it is important, and sometimes hard, to put aside that creativity and carry out your plan.  While it is O.K. to modify, and document, procedures as we go, keeping the test “fair” involves keeping in control of all variables, which takes planning.   And what about interpreting results, is that ever a creative process?  Some students are starting to see how the same results can be interpreted differently by different scientists – particularly when the results are a little “messy”.  

It takes a significant commitment of class time to allow for this inquiry-based evolution of thought to take place, but the end result is that our learners really understand the big picture much better than if they were given “cookbook” procedures to follow with clean, easily interpreted results.  We will continue to develop these skills as we move on to new units over the course of the year.  Our next stop: using the topic of force and motion to explore the engineering design process.