We realised this week that we’ve failed to talk much about the topic we’re most qualified to talk about – the sciences.
This is perhaps because it’s quite difficult to cover a science-related topic that’s relevant to most students.
But today we’re gonna try.
We don’t envy the job of high school science teachers. It must be truly difficult to cover what their curriculum requires them to teach in a school year.
This post is not about blame, it’s just about fact.
The fact of the matter is that students can’t possibly get the chance to sink their teeth into a subject in a few weeks. To develop a true understanding of these ideas when they’re hurriedly covered and very quickly whisked away to be replaced with a new topic is near impossible.
Unfortunately for our teens covering so much in a limited amount of time inevitably means the quality of what is being learnt suffers.
We’ve noticed with students we tutor that their coursework is sometimes simplified so much that it almost doesn’t make sense.
For example, (and don’t worry if this makes no sense!) when covering the process of cellular respiration one of our student’s text books said that the electrons “bounce down the cytochromes” during the electron transport chain. Furthermore, the proteins involved were drawn in the book as springs…
Seriously? This student is 17 not 7. The simplification of this information turned out to make it more confusing!
We get that a compromise needs to be made in terms of how much detail is given to students with their science subjects. Too much would be inappropriate and rightly should be reserved for tertiary level teaching. But when information is being simplified to the extent that what is being taught is close to being scientific rubbish, your teen’s learning is being compromised.
So what do we propose?
That your teen starts doing a bit of outside reading.
If they’re striving for anything more than a pass, then they’re going to need to convey to their examiners that they actually understand their scientific concepts.
For many students, this will be difficult if they stick solely with the work given to them in class.
We’re not saying they need to start reading scientific journals. But how about something that’s not going to bore them to tears?
Where to look:
Khan Academy is a fantastic website (if you haven’t heard us mention it already).
Much more than just the hundreds of math problems it has for anyone to practice for free, it also has over 2,100 videos that explain maths, biology, physics and chemistry concepts.
(Whenever I need my memory jogged about a particular topic, I watch a Khan Academy video. And chances are I understand the concept much more than I ever did in the first place!)
Youtube is a fantastic source of educational videos that aren’t insanely boring.
A video on meiosis will properly inform your teen without confusing them with masses of scientific jargon. Plus, to many teens, watching a video is a lot more appealing than reading a solid page of text.
We also suggest your teen simply hits up Google for a bit of background information on whatever they’re doing in class. This extra info will act as the glue that sticks all the bits and pieces they learn at school together.
This could also be a great opportunity for you to help your teen.
Maybe you could scout out a few websites that seem to offer sound insight without going overboard with detail? Especially if your teen isn’t great at taking their learning into their own hands, you may be needed to get the ball rolling.
What’s exciting about your teen looking outside the box of their classroom for scientific information, is that it will expose them to stuff they never would otherwise learn. They’ll see how science is applied to real life, which it is everywhere you look.
This instantly makes things a whole lot more interesting.
Your teenage son might not pay attention when learning about combustion in chemistry, but I bet he thinks watching a rocket take off is pretty awesome!
What we need to do is help our teens find a balance in the information they take on board. Enough information so they actually understand their subjects, but not so much their head explodes and they end up not understanding the fundamentals.
If you come across any resources that your teen finds really helpful please don’t hesitate in sharing them with us all in the comments section.