May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Truth in Labeling

Posted: Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

by Pete A’Hearn

One of the high schools in my area decided this year that they would not do science fair anymore.  It used to be a requirement for honors classes.  It was what made an honors class different from a regular biology class.  The decision was made because doing an independent science project took too much time away from the preparation for CST testing.  Since doing the project wasn’t directly correlated with any CST test questions, it wasn’t deemed to be worth the time spent.  Yes, there are Investigation and Experimentation standards on the test, but only 10 percent, and it is often to see how doing an actual project directly prepares the kids for the test.

I only bring this up because this sort of thing happens pretty consistently.  “We don’t have time to do labs, because we have so many standards to cover,” is a pretty constant refrain.  The drive to continuously improve test scores tends to drive everything that is not obviously linearly connected to a test question out of the curriculum.

It occurs to me that in college they have two different kinds of art classes.  One is called Art and the other one is called Art Appreciation.  The difference is that in Art, you actually make art.  If it is well taught you also learn about famous artists and what they did.  In Art Appreciation you read about art, get lectured at about art, and look at lots of pictures.  It seems like, in the interest of truth in labeling, we should change the name of most science classes to Science Appreciation.  That would let students and families know that they won’t actually be doing too much science in the class.

Pete A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is region 4 director for CSTA.

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

2 Responses

  1. This is really a shame. Eliminating the science fair is a bad practice. Teaching science concepts with hands-on tools like actual science experiments is critical. Application,…anyone,..anyone. I agree with the science appreciation label. When I was in science class all we did is learn about science and not actually do any science. Application teaches more than just the 10% testing.

  2. I think the philosophy of any Science class should be learn by doing. I earned a biology degree at Chico State and never once ran a gel electrophoresis. There were other very valuable labs, but I felt unprepared when I was working at a biotechnology company after college having not ever done something so basic. Being a teacher now, I realize even more the importance of hands on learning in Science and other classes. I would definitely do the labs instead of hammering the standards. By the way, the 7th grade life science classes run gels at my school!

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