September 2011

Teaching K – 12 science in the absence of adequate classroom time and resources

A few ideas

Methods to induce inquiry-based learning at the K – 12 level:
Use newspaper and Internet articles
about current hot topics in science and research to start discussion. Stem-cell research is a favorite. Questions give the teacher the opportunity to incorporate biological principles into the discussion.

Invite local researchers to lead demonstrations. A real plus in doing this is that the scientist can bring portable equipment. The equipment should not be used for show and tell but as a starting point for inquiry-based instruction. If I'm working on something without saying what I'm doing, then students will ask the following questions: What is that? Why are you doing that? How does that work? Who made that?

Perform an experiment to engage students in discussion. For instance, use your imagination to generate questions using only foil, a magnifying glass and soil from outside your building. After the first round of observations and questions, pour water on the soil.

peppersTake advantage of a natural experiment. Bring agricultural and other natural resources to the classroom. Different colored vegetables (of the same kind) or flowers are real winners.

Margaret Johnson Margaret Johnson ( is an associate professor at the University of Alabama.


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