If you asked a child if they wanted to sit down and read and/or memorize a list of scientific facts, what do you think they would say? You’ve probably experienced this exact scenario with your students at some point. Being the awesome teacher that you are, you probably found a way to make this activity seem more exciting than that, but it likely still involved some hard work on your part. On the other hand, what if you asked that same child to design and perform cool experiments using everyday objects along with tools they’ve never used before? You would probably be greeted with a much more positive response, right?
Inquiry science curricula gets results. However, some parents and educators aren’t always so easily convinced by a child’s enthusiasm, and they have good reason to be skeptical. Not everything fun will involve learning, and not everything that involves learning will be fun. However, there is a middle ground that will appeal to teachers, students, parents, and educators alike. Let’s go through five basic reasons a hands-on approach to learning STEM is better for students than older curricula that focus on memorization.
1. Teaching on Students’ Cognitive Level
Numerous studies have been conducted that show how children learn differently as they grow older. Children are naturally active and very in-tune with their senses. They learn better by touching, seeing, hearing, and smelling than by reading facts and trying to memorize them. Inquiry science works with students’ cognitive development rather than against it.
2. Engaging Higher Order Thinking
At the same time, inquiry science also engages higher order thinking. By presenting physical problems, challenges, and/or scenarios to your students, you can help them develop their analytical reasoning skills. They’ll learn about evaluating and assessing situations and how to brainstorm and choose the best solutions.
This kind of teaching does more than prepare children for standardized testing; it also prepares them for high school, college, and beyond. When they interact with their lessons they retain more information, and when they learn how to handle different situations they’ll have better problem-solving skills, applicable both in testing and in real-life.
3. More Engagement With Students’ Interests
Through inquiry science, students are able to more actively engage with the parts of a unit that most interest them. This keeps them more engaged and helps them dive deeper into the subject matter in front of them. They’ll then be inspired to continue to pursue the subjects that most intrigue them and further enrich their studies.
4. Teaching the Relevance of Science Through Application
By letting students really get their hands on inquiry science experiments, you’ll give them a first-hand look at the relevance and importance of science in real life. By taking it out of the textbook and putting it right there in front of them in the classroom, you’re giving them a literal grasp of what scientists and engineers do. Letting students be engineers and scientists when they’re learning about science and math is quite possibly the very best way to show them that STEM subjects are about more than just facts, memorization, and repetition.
5. Building on What They Learned Before
Inquiry science in a STEM curriculum also builds on what students have learned before. For example, once students learn about the scientific and engineering processes, they use these processes as they carry out all of their experiments and design prototypes. Each unit builds upon the last, and students get a deeper understanding of all that they’ve done so far as they progress through their curriculum.
*This post was updated on 11/16/17.