Adventures in Ethics and Science

At present, the Free-Ride offspring are enjoying the hospitality of the Grandparents Who Lurk But Seldom Comment, and the Free-Ride parental units are enjoying quieter mornings — at least in theory.

This morning, some time before 7:00 …

Casa Free-Ride telephone: RING! RING! RING! RING!

Dr. Free-Ride: Mrrph! ZZZZZZ

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Hello?


Younger Free-Ride offspring: Hi [Dr. Free-Ride's better half]!

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Hi [Younger Free-Ride offspring]. Do you know what time it is?

Younger Free-Ride offspring: No, let me look at the clock.

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Yawn!

Younger Free-Ride offspring: (heard over the phone) No [Grandparent Who Lurks But Seldom Comments], it’s not too early to call. [Dr. Free-Ride's better half] answered.

Discussion ensued about the sprogs’ preparation for today’s “World Cup” competition at soccer camp. There was a significant energy gradient between the two participants in the conversation.

Younger Free-Ride offspring: Bye [Dr. Free-Ride's better half]!

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Bye [Younger Free-Ride offspring]. Next time, check the clock before you call, OK?

Younger Free-Ride offspring: OK, I will.

Dr. Free-Ride: (drowsily) Did you specify a time before which it’s too early to call?

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: No.

Dr. Free-Ride: Well, the next early-morning call we get, [Younger Free-Ride offspring] will at least know exactly what time it is.

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Getting the facts is the first step to making a good decision.

Dr. Free-Ride: As long as you take the call.

* * * * *

In the phone conversations I have had with the sprogs at more civilized hours of the day, they have neglected (some might say refused) to give up any science-y morsels for me to share with you today.

So instead, as the school year creeps up on us, maybe it’s time to check how the ubiquitous school budget cuts will be affecting science instruction in your area, and to share strategies for getting school kids through these lean times without too much trauma.

In our elementary school (and public school district), things look like they will be a little better than was initially feared. That is to say, science instruction has not been totally cut (unlike music and physical education). What has been cut is the teacher assigned as the science teacher for the school. (That teacher will be a regular classroom teacher in the fall.) And this means that every classroom teacher will be responsible for teaching the grade-level science curriculum to his or her class — learning the material, figuring out multiple ways to explain the material, getting the hands-on demonstrations to works, leading the students through the hands-on experiments (and being ready to help the groups of students troubleshoot on the fly), not leaving the equipment and materials for the demos and experiments in such disarray that the other teachers cannot find what they need.

I’m guessing things may not go totally smoothly at the beginning — and that’s before we even factor in the classroom teachers who are kind of freaked out because they don’t feel so comfortable with their own knowledge of science or ability to teach it.

Also, the school won’t be having a science fair this coming academic year. While the Free-Ride offspring will doubtless be doing lots of experimentation of their own around the house, I anticipate it will be harder to get them to write any of it up (or think hard about how to explain it to other kids, etc.).

Our school’s solution to almost any challenge is to throw parent (and grandparent) volunteers at it, but our experience has been that many of the parent volunteers are openly freaked out about science (or more precisely, about the fact that it is not something they think they’re good at). I’m a little worried, therefore, that the big lesson the kids at our school learn this coming academic year is that grown-ups think science is scary. (All in all, that’s a better lesson than “Science is scary,” but still, it seems suboptimal.)

Have any of you been through a school year like this? Any clever ideas to share for getting through it?

Comments

  1. #1 Emily
    July 24, 2009

    Hmm. When I was in primary school (ages 4-11) here in Britain, less than a decade ago, this was exactly how it worked. Our primary school had a teacher who was science co-ordinator (and there was a music co-ordinator, an art co-ordinator, etc etc), but every class teacher taught their own science lessons, practicals and demonstrations and write-ups and everything. The co-ordinator, I think, was mainly in charge of materials and so on. It seemed to work okay. I guess that, because that was the system, all the teachers were more specifically trained to teach science, whereas if that’s not the usual system where you are, they probably aren’t. But you can at least be reassured that in principle it’s quite possible to get this system to work fine!

  2. #2 becca
    July 24, 2009

    I don’t know, in a perverse way adults thinking ‘science is scary’ could enhance the appeal. Much like when kids get all excited about roaches or other bugs and enjoy tormenting others with them.
    In any event, I’m not much help. I have not been through such a school year. Although, bugs are cheap…

  3. #3 Isis the Scientist
    July 27, 2009

    In the phone conversations I have had with the sprogs at more civilized hours of the day, they have neglected (some might say refused) to give up any science-y morsels for me to share with you today.

    You give those sprogs a break, Free-ride! Even the most productive kids in science need a vacation sometimes.

  4. #4 Alan
    July 27, 2009

    The sprogs aren’t refusing to divulge, they’re just not thinking of it. They do have their limitations after all. :)

  5. #5 rap
    July 31, 2009

    Tracking technologies may record information such as Internet domain and host names; Internet protocol

  6. #6 Silver Fox
    August 1, 2009

    It’s amazing to see how the innate curiosity of young minds still maintaining an interest in science. But, for most of them that will probably chance as their cultural experiences begin to take hold. Discovering scientific facts take too long and we live in an impatient world. We want fast foods and fast results. The attractive lure of interest-rate swaps and derivatives, and securitization of MBSs is the only place to get that high flying excitement and quick payoffs that is wanted in a fast moving culture. Trying to figure out quantum, ten dimensional universes, what came before the “big bang” and what kind of muck those early amino acids came from five billion years ago just doesn’t compare to the adrenaline rush of operating a big time hedge fund.