Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How to Light the Fire of Passion About Science

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."

While this popular quote is often attributed to William Butler Yeats, it's actually much older than that, dating back to the ancient Roman philosopher Plutarch. Regardless of where it first originated, however, the sentiment of this quote aligns perfectly with how real people really learn information and particularly science, while accenting the problem of traditional curriculum. It highlights the difference between simply memorizing random facts and actually understanding the processes and concepts involved.
Filling the Pail
Want to know how not to incite learning passion? Simply use traditional textbooks which present dry, unrelated facts and ask your kids to memorize those facts. How likely is it that your child will be able to remember all those random facts? And how likely is it that he or she will be able to recall that information later, at will?
Not only is memorization difficult and largely ineffective, it creates boredom. It doesn't challenge students or excite them to learn more. It simply fills a child's neural "pail" and, over the short- and long-term, that pail tends to develop holes that allow preexisting knowledge to fall right through.
In this scenario, teachers are dispensers who mete out little bits of information, gradually filling the pail. They are not involved in helping students form connections but merely in continually pouring data into the receptacle of the student's mind and expecting that eventually it will stay put; eventually the pail will be filled to the brim.
Lighting the Fire of Learning That Never Ends
The truth is that people never stop learning. The pail should never - and absolutely will never - be completely full.
In order to develop a passion for education, it's important to change our teaching methodology based on how people really learn. Students of any age and any subject learn better when they are allowed to investigate topics. They need to make connections between new information and current knowledge, between academic data and real life in the world around them. In addition, hands-on learning through experimentation, is vital for cementing those connections.
This doesn't happen through random fact memorization. It does happen, however, if children are taught the processes and concepts behind science and other, typically more difficult subjects, such as math and technology. In this way of learning, students are presented with unique problems or situations and they have the ability to think through the answers and solutions. They don't have to refer back to their "pail" of knowledge, sifting through all the random facts filling it up. Rather, they are able to use their brain's neural pathways to devise a probable or even unique answer. This helps them get excited about learning; it lights the fire of their passion for knowledge.
In your homeschool studies, are you lighting a fire of passion about learning or are your kids merely being subjected to traditional classes that focus on rote memorization and random facts? Isn't it time you got them excited about learning subjects such as science? If you wish to incite a lifelong passion for learning, then it's time to change the curriculum you are using. Ditch the traditional and find textbooks and workbooks using a teaching methodology based on how real people really learn.

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