What assets does our little school have when it comes to teaching science? After all it does not have a science-dedicated classroom or lab, and its does not own lots of fancy equipment. One asset is the school’s common practice of teaching through inquiry. This practice exploits the natural curiosity children display to guide them into asking questions and answering them by seeking information or performing experiments. It is a natural process to tackle any project, be it related to language-arts, math, social studies, or science. Being familiar with the approach across the curriculum definitely gives our students an advantage when it comes to scientific inquiry.
Another asset our school has is not being bound to a set of standards and standardized testing. It allows us to focus on promoting understanding of big scientific ideas that often tend to be buried under unnecessary jargon in traditional curricula. We can afford choosing deeper understanding of fewer concepts over superficial knowledge of more facts.
Still another asset for The Magnolia School are its brave and resourceful teachers, unafraid of digging, building, dissecting and whatever else needs to happen for a particular science activity. The list of assets also includes helpful contacts from the Magnolia community as well as from FSU and FAMU, which allows us to bring scientific experts from many different disciplines into the classrooms. And to be truthful, the school owns more scientific equipment than one may think, now stored all together in the “Science Resource Room.” The inventory includes some purchases and a lot of donations through the years. Grant money from the middle school Springs project has also allowed recent dedicated acquisitions: a couple of dip nets, a depth finder, a plant press, a GPS receiver and some water quality test strips.
Maybe because of the improvised character of our scientific experiments, our middle schoolers often graduate thinking they have not done much science. When they visit from their respective high schools, however, they typically say that they knew much more science than they thought, that they dislike their busy high school textbooks, and that they miss the experimenting they did at Magnolia. We must be doing something right!