After completing their compulsory science courses in high school, the majority of students stop taking science.
In Ontario, high school students are required to take grade 9 and 10 general science. They may then choose to take a senior (grade 11 or 12) science, or a French as a second language course, a technological education course, a computer studies course or co-operative education.
|From the Ontario Ministry of Education's website|
That the students don't take as many science courses as possible doesn't come as too much of a surprise - with the reduction of the high school program from five years to four, many students concentrate solely on the courses they need for their chosen college or university programs. They may not have a lot of room to take science courses for fun.
But the question that really stayed with me was, why wouldn't students want to take science?
I LOVE science. To me, all science is incredibly cool, and it is EVERYWHERE. How does a tree get water to the very top leaves? Why is it so windy outside? How does the International Space Station stay in orbit? Why do eggs go opaque when cooked? Why do I need electrolytes after I exercise? How is my computer allowing me to type at this very moment?
I have a hard time believing students aren't curious about things like this, or similar things that affect them every day. And isn't science class where they can learn more about the everyday mysteries of life?
So what are we, as science teachers, doing to drive students away (or equivalently, what are we not doing to keep students interested)? Why are students deciding that science isn't worth their time? While I often hear "when am I going to use this??" in math class, I never hear that in science. Students know science is useful, and yet they still choose other courses.
Are the topics we provide not interesting them? Are they finding it hard (and what is it they're finding hard? Testing? Math? Memorization?)? Are we too rigorous (too much demand placed on details like significant digits or the individual steps of the Krebs Cycle)? Not rigorous enough (not allowing students to go into more depth on a topic that speaks to them)?
I'm curious. Especially as I start a new year as a grade 9 teacher - how can I instill a love of science in my students that will last them through high school (perhaps even seeing them want to take an optional science course in their senior years), and beyond?