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Books for Teachers: Getting Science by Brian Clegg

get science by Brian Clegg addresses an audience of primary school teachers who feel less confident about teaching science in their classrooms. While I am not in his target audience, I am close to him. (I love science and teach small groups of homeschooled students.) Clegg did some things that authors should do. He caught my attention, he told me things I needed to read or wanted to learn and he kept my attention throughout the book. I learned a bit and further solidified previous knowledge. It’s a good book, and after reading it, I hope many primary school teachers will read it.

Clegg begins his writing with reasons why science can be a little scary. Journal articles and academic writing in general are stuffy and use inflated words instead of easy-to-understand everyday language. Scientific papers weren’t always written that way, and they certainly don’t need to be written that way, but now it’s custom and tradition. It takes a bit of effort to examine that language, but fortunately, it isn’t. You can be an effective and fun science teacher without the stuffy journals. He learns by reading popular books and science programs instead.

Clegg also talks about what science is and should be. Science is an adventure. It should be fun. It should fill you with awe. Science tries to find out how the universe works. That doesn’t sound so scary, does it?

Its first chapter talks about how to involve the children in the lesson. People like people, so he suggests putting science in context and finding it in real life. What was the scientist who made the discovery like? How did that scientist grow? What in his life led him to think and experiment the way he did to make the discovery? In addition to engaging the people and a bit of history, find the science in real life. If he’s talking about cell division, he could mention making bread and maybe bringing yeast into the classroom. He suggests peppering the discussion with shocking and gross facts. Kids like gross. He emphasizes that children must do things with their hands. Seeing a demonstration is better than just hearing about it, but it’s best if the children do the experiment or demonstrate it themselves. We learn by doing. And above all, make it fun.

At the very least, teachers should read the first chapter of the book.

The second chapter talks about why we have laboratories. People are not good observers. Many people do not know the difference between causality and correlation. Anecdotes are not data. Disproving is much easier than proving. All of these people facts lead to why we have labs. Fortunately, labs are no longer filled with middle-aged white men in lab coats, and personalities of all stripes can be found in science labs.

Clegg talks about different scientific eras in his third chapter. 500BC to 1500AD is the classical period. During this time, the prevailing “theory” prevailed because it was successfully argued. There really wasn’t much science involved. Some of this classical thinking still exists today in the form of astrology and the four elements. The clock age of science was from 1500AD (the end of the Middle Ages) to around 1900AD. This era was full of scientific discoveries and theories that make sense. Newton said that force equals mass times acceleration. That makes sense. Spontaneous generation theories disappeared because people discovered that flies lay eggs on raw meat. Clegg calls the current era counterintuitive. I mean, this age of science doesn’t seem to make sense. Just think of the phrases quantum theory, relativity, and light is light, but it can act like a wave or a particle.

Chapters 4, 5, and 6 talk about interesting things about science, and Clegg provides suggestions for learning and teaching the topics. What is life? Why don’t humans have fur? How does cloning work? What are the five states of matter? (Yes, five. It’s not just solid, liquid, and gas.) How do mirrors work? What is the difference between mass and weight? What are black holes? What are wormholes? His explanations are pretty easy to follow.

Chapter 7 presents a case for doing practical science. Chapter 8 talks about finding and seeing science in the real world and how to make experiments come to life, but not in a weird science as way Chapter 9 talks about science on the web. Which websites are trustworthy and how can you tell if a site is trustworthy. It also gives tips on how to search the web. Chapter 10 gives ideas on how to keep up with science and Chapter 11 tells you to go inspire the world.

The book was easy to read and didn’t take long. Still, she managed to pack a lot of good information into it. Are you a primary or primary teacher? If so, go to your library and take a look at this little treasure.

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