Albert Einstein once said, “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” We are curious about many things in the world around us. We follow our curiosities which in turn helps us to make discoveries. School and the classroom are places where kids make discoveries and satisfy their curiosities.
Kids learn by touching, feeling, and experimenting with real things. Kids have questions and curiosities in their minds that need answering and sometimes rather than reading, watching or listening they need to make hands-on discoveries. One question AIMS workshop participants often ask is, “What change did you make in your classroom to help students learn and make discoveries with their hands?” My answer is, “I left all my hands-on ‘things’ out for students to use at all times.” Yes, my classroom may have looked chaotic with shelves and counters filled with balance scales, base ten blocks, counting chips, microscopes, light bulbs, wire, and batteries but WOW, 100% worth the mess.
Math and science present the need for students to ask questions and solve problems. If the context of each is real and asks students to think creatively and critically about what they are learning, and if they are successful then they will have been able to apply their learning from a perspective approach in their own world. That means “doing” math and science with their hands. I constantly remind myself that someday students will be designing houses, perfecting wind power, or using their math to design to next smartphone. It is seeing cool solutions to basic problems around the questions asked in math and science that are a teacher’s reward for having students work with their hands.
What do your math and science classrooms look like this school year? Are they set up for students to solve real-world problems? Think about setting them up for success, because soon they will be asked to find solutions to complex problems. Set up your math and science classroom so students ask “why” all day long. Let them open things, drop objects, make loud sounds, mix liquids, and make calculations. Problem-solving is we what students need to be doing every day. Be mindful that you are there to facilitate them satisfying their curiosity and discoveries.
Hands-on math and science matter because it is how we learn. It is especially important that students do this every day not because they will all be scientists or mathematicians, but because they are all curious and need ways to relate and solve the complex problems in the world. They want to know “why” and it is why we have classes about designing shoes, making fidget spinners, why airplanes fly, developing lightsabers, and doing so means leaving balance scales, base ten blocks, counting chips, microscopes, light bulbs, wire and batteries, duct tape, paper cups, and foam board out all the time.