Seeing the science in children’s thinking Documents

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Seeing the science in children’s thinking 

written by David Hammer

This work is motivated by two well-established findings.  First, by the time children reach elementary school, they've grown rich in intellectual resources for learning science.  Consider it: They know that if you throw a rock it keeps moving, but if you throw a balloon it doesn't; that it would hurt to kick a bowling ball, what it feels like to ride in a moving vehicle, that you cannot suck peanut butter through a straw, and so on and on:  It is a vast amount of knowledge.

Second, by the time students reach college they have mostly learned to set that knowledge aside.  Extensive evidence shows students in introductory physics courses treating the material as divorced from their experience.  There is not smoking-gun evidence for why, but one conjecture seems likely: Time and again, science instruction systematically ignores or, worse, disdains students' experiential knowledge.

Much of the challenge is in recognition. In its unrefined form, the beginnings of science in children's thinking can be difficult to notice.  It's something like walking through a lush forest looking for food: If you know how to recognize it, there's plenty! If you don't, you'll walk right by it, or, worse, you'll trample it down.

We have developed the start of a "field guide" to the beginnings of science as it shows up in children's thinking, using video from 1st-8th grade classes. For this workshop, I'll show examples of children's thinking and discuss how we use these materials in elementary teacher education.

Last Modified February 24, 2010

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