from the EDITOR’S desk
Much of what our students know about science is a result of interactions outside the classroom. Whether it is visiting a museum, a zoo, or a nature center, there are numerous venues that blend education and entertainment while providing an opportunity for families to spend time together (NSTA 2012). In addition, outdoor hobbies such stargazing, gardening, fishing, hiking, and camping bring students into contact with the natural world. As the end of the school year approaches, you might be asking how you can be an advocate for science learning beyond the classroom.
There’s no better way than to become personally immersed in informal learning. Participate in professional development opportunities and workshops to experience for yourself learning science in an engaging and interactive manner. By participating, you’ll learn strategies that can be incorporated into the classroom. NSTA Reports (available online at https://www.nsta.org/types/nsta-reports) often contains a selection of activities that range from a week to an entire summer, some of which include a stipend.
Help your students cultivate a STEM identity by keeping them engaged in science all summer. Do you have a teaching website? Considering posting ideas for simple, safe experiments to be conducted at home, or links to sites such as ScienceBuddies.org, which contains thousands of experiments for all grade levels. Create a reading list of biographies of scientists from diverse backgrounds to inspire your students. Include a list of summer STEM opportunities for students (your former students will thank you since many summer STEM programs are restricted to high school students). Expand your classroom walls by perusing SciStarter.com to curate a list of age-appropriate citizen science projects that deal with everything from weather, astronomy, and insects.
Think ahead to next school year by investigating the possibility of holding a Family Science or STEM Night. As you consider how you can incorporate informal learning into your classroom, research and plan a future field trip to an informal science education center near you. Reach out to local universities and businesses to establish contacts with individuals who would be willing to mentor your students or serve as a guest speaker in your classroom. These types of experiences will resonate with your students and help connect what you do on a daily basis with science beyond the classroom.
Patty McGinnis is a former middle school teacher and long-time member of NSTA. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @patty_mcginnis.
National Science Teaching Association. 2012. Learning science in informal environments (Position Statement). https://www.nsta.org/about/positions/informal.aspx