Teacher Books: Brian Clegg’s Getting Science

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Getting science by Brian Clegg addresses an audience of elementary school teachers who are unsure about teaching science in their classrooms. While I am not in his target audience, I am close to him. (I love science and I teach in small groups of homeschooled students). Clegg did some things that authors should do. It caught my attention, told me things I needed to read or wanted to learn, and kept my attention throughout the book. I learned a bit and further solidified the previous knowledge. It is a good book and after reading it I hope that many elementary teachers will read it.

Clegg begins writing with reasons why science can be a bit scary. Magazine articles and academic writing in general are stifling and use bloated words instead of easy-to-understand everyday language. Scientific articles were not always written that way, and they certainly don’t need to be written that way, but now it is custom and tradition. It takes a bit of effort to examine that language, but fortunately, it is not necessary. You can be a fun and effective science teacher without the stuffy journals. Instead, learn by reading popular books and science programs.

Clegg also talks about what science is and should be. Science is an adventure. It should be fun. It should fill you with awe. Science tries to find out how the universe works. That doesn’t sound so scary, does it?

Its first chapter talks about how to involve the children in the lesson. People like people, so he suggests putting science in context and finding it in real life. What was the scientist who made the discovery like? How did that scientist grow up? What in your life led you to think and experiment the way you did to make the discovery? Besides getting people involved and a bit of history, find the science in real life. If you are talking about cell division, you could mention making bread and maybe bringing yeast into the classroom. Suggest sprinkling the discussion with amazing and gross facts. Children like gross. He emphasizes that children should do things with their hands. Watching a demonstration is better than just hearing about it, but the best option is for children to do the experiment or demonstration themselves. We learn by doing. And above all, make it fun.

At the very least, teachers should read the first chapter of the book.

The second chapter talks about why we have labs. People are not good observers. Many people do not know the difference between causality and correlation. Anecdotes are not data. Disproving is much easier than proving. All of these people facts lead to why we have labs. Fortunately, labs are no longer filled with middle-aged white men in lab coats, and personalities of all kinds can be found in science labs.

Clegg talks about different scientific eras in his third chapter. 500 BC C. to 1500 d. C. is the classical period. During this time, the prevailing “theory” prevailed because it was successfully argued. There really wasn’t a lot of science involved. Some of this classical thinking still exists today in the form of astrology and the four elements. The clockwork era of science ran from 1500 AD (the end of the Middle Ages) to around 1900 AD This era was full of scientific discoveries and theories that make sense. Newton said that force equals mass times acceleration. That makes sense. Spontaneous generation theories disappeared because people discovered that flies laid eggs in raw meat. Clegg calls the current age counterintuitive. I mean, this age of science doesn’t seem to make sense. Just think of the phrases quantum theory, relativity, and light is light, but it can act like a wave or a particle.

Chapters 4, 5, and 6 discuss interesting aspects of science, and Clegg offers suggestions for learning and teaching the topics. What is life? Why don’t humans have hair? How does cloning work? What are the five states of matter? (Yes, five. It is not just solid, liquid and gas). How do mirrors work? What is the difference between mass and weight? What are black holes? What are wormholes? His explanations are pretty easy to follow.

Chapter 7 presents a case for making science practical. Chapter 8 talks about how to find and see science in the real world and how to make experiments come to life, but not in a Weird science as shape. Chapter 9 talks about science on the web. Which websites are trustworthy and how can you tell if a site is trustworthy. It also gives clues on how to search the web. Chapter 10 provides ideas on how to stay current in science, and Chapter 11 tells you to go inspire the world.

The book was easy to read and didn’t take long. Still, he managed to put a lot of good information in it. Are you a primary or primary teacher? If so, go to your library and check out this little treasure.

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