Understanding Chemistry in an hour

Chemistry in an hour

LESSON SCRIPT

Dr. Sheldon Margulies’

Approach to Science Education

Dr. Sheldon Margulies - author of Fascinating Science

Learning is serious stuff. It’s not all about games and animated adventures. That doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable. The way to keep kids interested in science is to give them scientific tools they can use in their own lives and make the science easy to learn. Many kids see science as something only the smart kids can understand. I believe that once they realize how easy (and useful) science can be, their own growing confidence and pride in accomplishment will propel them forward.

 

Learn Why Things Float

Start Lesson View Script

Want to know more?

FAQ-graphic-b

These curricula offer students something they can use, and they do it in a way that students can readily understand without taking forever to do it. The curricula utilize the following teaching techniques developed over a 30 year career of studying the brain and teaching more than 2500 medical students and residents:

  1. Kids need to see the big picture. In chemistry, for example, the big picture is that there are about 100 atoms in the periodic table, and while they bond to each other to form molecules, they only use one of four ways to bond to each other. If you understand which of the four bonds was used, you will understand the properties of the resulting molecule. Giving kids the big picture up front allows them to understand why they are learning a particular topic, because they see where it fits. You know students are disoriented when they ask, “Is this going to be on the test?” In other words, why am I learning this, because right now I see no relevance to it except to be tested on it.
  1. The illustrations are simple, brightly colored, clearly labeled, and viewable on personal and mobile devices. I try not to clutter the illustrations with too many distracting and unnecessary details. The illustrations develop bit by bit, each new bit narrated in common English with no technical talk.
  1. There is no better way to learn something than to see it. Visualizing what the teaching is trying to say adds a whole new dimension to learning. Textbooks are limited in this regard, because students not only have to translate the text into language they understand, they then have to form a mental image of what the author is trying to say. I skip all that and provide the image up front, which greatly speeds up the learning by cutting out the drudgery and getting right to the point.
  1. I assume the students know absolutely nothing about the subject being taught. Of course, there is some math knowledge needed to use much of the science learned, but it still doesn’t distract from understanding the concepts). Starting from scratch, I slice the information very thin. Presenting the material slowly and clearly gives students no opportunity to throw up their hands and announce, “I can’t do this; it’s too hard.” If a student doesn’t understand, it’s on me, because I’m not explaining it properly.
  1. Rote memorization and definitions don’t help you understand science. What I do emphasize is looking at things and asking why that happens. Asking why prompts answers that beg other, deeper questions, and before long the students have covered a lot of material simply by looking at things and asking why. Kids want to know how their world works – why their hair curls and how to make it straight, why baseballs curve, why it rains, how ships float, how steam engines work. I want them to see how chemistry, biology, and physics explain their world.
  1. Once or twice within each lesson, and again at the end of the lesson, I stop and review what we’ve learned up to that point. Then at the end of each lesson is a test and each test is followed by answers to the test. For many questions, especially ones that involve math, I explain how I worked out the answer. My goal is to use the testing as an additional learning opportunity.
  1. Each curriculum covers all the standard topics taught in a high school curriculum. By using illustrations to explain science, each curriculum is less than 20 lessons. Even if each lesson is viewed two or even three times, visual learning takes much less time than text-based learning.
  1. In 2008, I used my audiovisual approach to teach biology 1 hour a week to 96 juniors at Dunbar High School in Baltimore. At the end of the year, their pass rate on the HSA exams (a requirement for high school graduation) rose from 40% the year before to 87% the year I taught. On the Maryland School Assessment for Biology, 86% of the students passed that year. Here is a graph of the HSA pass rates before I taught Fascinating Biology in 2008.
  1. There is no barrier between me and the students or their parents. If my webmaster cannot solve an issue, contact me, because I want to know what the problem is. I am reachable by email or phone.