Many of the science courses that students are required to take culminate in a standardized exam. The content that is tested on the exam ultimately determines much of the information that is covered throughout the course. Unfortunately, most of these exams test rather arbitrary pieces of knowledge and leave little time for teaching lessons that are determined by student interests and current events in the field of science. Because science is always changing, new technologies emerging, and developments occurring, teachers need to find a way to infuse these topics into the set curriculum in order to keep students informed and prepare them for higher-level science courses. Here are a few ideas for keeping your curriculum up to date.
Keep yourself informed.
Many teachers, especially new teachers, find that they have very little free time to explore their field. We need to remember that our love of science is what brought us to this career. Set aside an hour each week to read up on the events that are happening within your field. Subscribe to science magazines and journals. Explore the resources that the Internet has to offer. Take books out of the library that offer new points of view or delve into theories. Reading information is just one way to stay current. Try to take one day each month to visit museums, parks, and other sites of interest. You may be surprised how many places offer inspiration for lessons, and even have resources that you can bring back to your classroom. By continuing to learn, you will have a constant reminder of the excitement that exists in the field of science.
Start with the units.
When determining where to include current developments, look at the units that you cover in your class. Try to find something new and exciting for each one, and then look for an appropriate opportunity to infuse it into your lessons. For example, when my class gets to the genetics unit, I always look for the most recent development and try to incorporate it into the activities. Current events are great, and by tying them to information that students need to know, we can enrich their education.
Bring in articles.
An easy way to address current events in your classroom is to bring in articles for the students to read and discuss. I like to use the New York Times as a source for well-written pieces that are interesting and relevant. Sometimes the language is a bit advanced for my ninth graders, but we can read it as a class, or I give students time to discuss it in groups. It is also a good idea to write questions to accompany the article so that students focus on the information that you want them to take away.
Have professionals visit your classroom.
Many science teachers majored in science in college, and as a result, we know many people that are enjoying careers using science. Doctors, researchers, forensic scientists, veterinarians, environmentalists, and social scientists are just a few of the possible people that you can invite into your classroom to share their knowledge and experiences. Students will likely be engaged and inspired by the visitors, and it may open their eyes to the career possibilities that exist.
Use the Internet for research.
Many textbooks are not up-to-date with the latest developments and technology. By teaching students proper methods for online research, they will understand how to keep themselves informed, and how to determine whether or not to trust a source of information. This is a life skill that they will be able to apply to any area of study. You can create projects in which students must find information about new treatments or techniques and present this information to the class.
Keep your videos up-to-date.
There are a million boring science movies floating around, and most of us have used them in class at one time or another. The good news is that there are so many great new videos, documentaries, and films that cover a wide variety of science topics. Make a commitment to yourself to purchase or download at least two interesting and current videos that relate directly to your curriculum. I just recently showed a new film about HIV in the class, and the students were begging to watch more. Videos can be a great way to present information and open up dialogue.
As a teacher, it is our job to prepare students for the future. By showing students that science is always evolving and giving them the skills to find and navigate new information, they will be able to continue their own science education when they leave the classroom.
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