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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fear of Getting Hands Dirty in the Science Classroom

It is a common question in science classrooms in the United States: how should more hands-in activities be incorporated in the classroom? Many teachers believe that hands-on activities are a vital portion of the science curriculum. Such instruction allows students to view the information they see in textbooks come alive so that they may investigate with their senses. The problem is that many teachers say that experiments and projects are important, yet the way they teach does not correspond. In my junior field experience, I lately encountered my cooperating teacher claiming that if she did more than one hands-on activity with her students throughout the week, she would never get anything accomplished. I have also heard that there are so many content standards, that lecturing is the only way to cover all the material they need to. What I have realized as I prepare to graduate, is that students grasp concepts better when they are able to investigate it on their own through kinesthetics and peer support.

Another issue teachers have is letting go of a little control to allow the students freedom for exploration and inquiry in the science classroom. They are nervous the students may become unruly, or that the classroom will be trashed after the activity. What actually happens is that students become more involved in the class when they are able to be more hands-on. They are relieved to have a break in the monotony of lectures and will more likely cause less trouble than when they are bored in a silent class. The students are typically more than willing to clean up as long as they are given sufficient time.

If more teachers could explore the option of more hands-on learning in the classroom, then the students might begin remembering a time when science was fun for them. Back when we were all little biologists playing in the stream or the woods near our homes. Then the stigma students have towards science may be lessened, and the science content learned in the classroom might be better understood to later be applied to their lives.


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  2. I think that this is a good concept to consider. I don't remember a single experiment from my high school chemistry class (although I do remember having 4 different lab partners throughout the course of the year). The only things I remember are how boring my teacher was and the one time I almost fell asleep.