I have a confession, I am a science teacher that does not care if my students learn science. I began my teaching career over 16 years ago, before they had standards. I had set topics that I had to teach but more freedom on how to teach them. My students learned through inquiry and a project based learning type of style. They loved learning, creating, and problem solving. Then came standards and science turned into a lot of facts. It was all about memorizing small details. The focus turned to power points with checks for understandings of the basic facts during the lesson and worksheets to practice the facts. The tests became multiple choice questions of basic facts. I really struggled with what was happening. Especially seeing the love of learning disappearing from my students as the years went on. To me learning small individual facts is not what science is all about. Science is about investigations, problem solving, analyzing, looking at evidence, communication, and discovery.
So if its not to learn science facts, what is the purpose of school? To me the purpose of school is to fail. It is to make mistakes and learn from them. The purpose of school is to learn skills of problem solving, persevering, learning to work with others, and learning how the choices we make have multiple outcomes. When my students leave my classroom it will not matter to me if they know atoms are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons. What matters to me is that they learn how to think for themselves. That they learn to make better choices and fix their mistakes. It matters to me that they understand the importance of organization and using resources to find information.
Don’t get me wrong. I love science and I love teaching science. My students do learn that atoms are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons. However, they learn science because my focus is on teaching them skills. I teach them how to research and organize their information. I teach them how to gather evidence, how to communicate and discuss ideas with each other. How to make claims and support them with the evidence they have discovered. I use their science topics to teach these skills. So will my students learn science? Absolutely! However, it is not what I am focused on because to me that is not the purpose of school.
What do you believe the purpose of school is?