Reviewed by Cary Seidman
This volume will be a great help to teachers who are unexpectedly assigned to teach science, especially at the middle school level. Experienced teachers will find the book useful as well, because each activity is carefully explained with background resources and lesson rationales clearly delineated.
The book has reproducible student lab sheets interspersed with detailed teacher’s notes. The teacher sections include the theoretical underpinning behind each investigation, samples of student responses and documented misconceptions, and a list of all materials needed to carry out the activities. Teachers of any science course at the middle school level will find suggestions for productive, well-constructed, activity-based lessons.
Because this book has more than 100 activities divided into 15 chapters, it would be hard to envision a class in which at least a few of these well-designed investigations would not find a home. Judging from the numbers of lessons offered, teachers of physical science courses will benefit most, because 10 of the 15 chapters cover topics such as forces and motion, heat, electricity, and forms of energy. The introductory sections, in which the authors explain the origins and rationale of the Predict, Observe, Explain (POE) pedagogy, should be required reading for every science teacher, novice and veteran alike.
As the authors note, disabusing students of such notions as electricity being “used up” as it travels a circuit or vacuums operating by “sucking” requires a good deal of effort in changing what seem like sensibly founded, intuitive ideas. A teacher who implements the POE strategy will always have a detailed and effective means of carrying out a lab. Moreover the teacher will also gain insight into how students perceive the course content and become aware of the misconceptions and faulty assumptions with which students sometimes approach a science investigation. It would probably be a stretch to apply some of these activities in high school, however. Perhaps there is a place for this material in a remedial secondary science classroom, but overall it seems far better suited for lower grades.
Review posted on 2/1/2011