Reviewed by Steve Canipe
Director, Science, Mathematics & Instructional Design Technology
Finding a reference book that has multiple uses is always a challenge for the financially limited classroom teacher. More Brain–Powered Science offers several possibilities. This book can increase the teacher’s knowledge and describes lesson ideas to use with students.
A primary focus of the book is to get science taught in a way that demonstrates constructivist processes. There are 22 activities this volume, but they represent far more than just another set of cookbook lesson plans to use in the classroom. There are lesson extension activities (a total of 80). Additional teacher notes and student activities are presented as part of the narrative discussion in each activity.
Several ideas presented in the text are rarely taught in many undergraduate programs in science education. One of these ideas is the discrepant event—something that is unexpected, puzzling, or extending outside the normal understanding. In the case of science teaching, this is the “wow” factor that grabs attention and gets students thinking in diverse ways about an observed phenomenon. A discrepant event does not need to look like science fiction but needs to present the unexpected. A specific example is illustrated in Activity 17. The ideas in this activity focus on metric measurement, magnitudes, and mathematics—all regularly presented in the classroom. This activity illustrates physical manipulations by taking 12 meter long dowel rods and corner connectors and constructing a physical cubic meter figure. The question raised is, if smaller cubes, such as centimeters, are present, then how many would fit inside the larger one. As the author points out, this is a precursor idea to going from unseen things and extrapolating to larger ones. He uses the example of subatomic particles (atoms) and extends it to compounds, mixtures, cells, organisms, and the biosphere, illustrating the logical extension from smaller parts to larger structures.
The author suggests that these ideas could be useful if a methods class or workshop is being conducted. Use in a methods course transcends the old “make and take” workshop models and becomes more like an idea bank of classroom teaching possibilities. Having this reference as part of the teacher’s toolkit could lead to more exciting and relevant lessons. This quality of resources makes the book very useful for either a workshop of one or an entire methods class.
Connections between standards from the National Science Education Standards (NSES) and benchmarks from AAAS Project 2061 are described. The book’s five sections roughly mirror the organization of the NSTA Standards for Science Teachers. This is one of the best overall references for teachers at all levels of science to have access to in the professional bookshelf. From the extensive introduction, that has citations and references, to the activities and extensions, and the glossary, this is a well–written and fundamentally grounded book. More Brain–Powered Science should be a part of every pre–service science methods course and of every in–service science workshop. If the ideas presented are internalized, scientific competence in students should dramatically increase.
Review posted on 4/20/2011