I think it is wonderful that we are having students ask meaningful questions and undertaking studies to try and answer those questions.  They are acting in part like scientists.

But are our school students really scientists?

What we are trying to do is make our students understand and appreciate the scientific process.  They see that science requires the asking of good questions, then designing experiments to test their questions, then working out if those experiential results can be replicated again and again, then coming to some conclusion based on those results, then allowing their peers to test their conclusions and add to the overall knowledge.

But in our classrooms, we really can’t expect our students to really be scientists – but we can model the process at a simplified level.

The important lessons for our students are these:

  • Science uses a process to come to valid conclusions.
  • Science is not just the reading of one article, watching an online video or listening to one person opinion.  It is rigorous.  It takes deep research into other people’s work and building on that work through fact-finding and experimentation that has to be duplicated again and again.
  • Scientists expect their peers to test their work.
  • Science is not a belief.  Scientists don’t “believe” something is happening.  They understand the facts that have been proven (there is a HUGE difference here – one that students need to be taught).

Again, I love that we are moving towards having students experience some of the aspects of doing science – but I don’t think we should have them leave our classrooms thinking that what they did equates to good science – the science that we need to trust to help us get through a pandemic, work on solutions to climate change, help us deliver water and food to the needy.

Students need to leave our classrooms understanding the process scientists use so that, in the future, they either pursue science as a career (because we are going to need them!) or appreciate what is good science and what is hearsay and opinion, for that is the only way we will move humankind forward.

Are our school students really scientists?