Thursday, April 03, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - Nature of Science

Every time I begin new class with preservice teachers or work in elementary classrooms I ask my students (young and old) to define the word science. I always get interesting responses. Most kids define science as a subject they study or facts to memorize. Some of the adults I teach answer in the same manner. This tells me a lot about how they've been taught. Even though many highly educated folks define science as a body of knowledge, it is so much more than this. Science is a way of knowing the world around us. It is a human endeavor, characterized by shared beliefs and attitudes about how the work of scientists is done and how scientific knowledge is developed.

While science may not be easy to define, today's book pairing tries to help readers better understand science as a complex human endeavor.

Poetry Book
What Is Science?, written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa, is a book length poem that asks and answers the question, "What is science?".

It begins with these words.

What is science?
So many things.
The study of stars
and Saturn's rings.
The study of rocks,
geodes and stones,
dinosaur fossils,
and old chipped bones.

And ends in this way.

So into the earth
and into the sky,
we question the how,
the where, when, and why.
We question,
we wonder,
we hunt and explore
the secrets of caves,
the dark ocean floor.
The oldest of rivers,
the tombs of kings.
What IS science?
So many things!

The short, rhyming verse and vibrant illustrations in this book combine nicely in this kid-friendly introduction to the world of science.

Nonfiction Picture Book
Q Is for Quark: A Science Alphabet Book, written by David Schwartz and illustrated by Kim Doner, is a thoroughly researched collection of science facts and tidbits that cover a range of topics in an accessible and interesting manner. Beginning with A is for Atom and ending with Z is for Zzzzzzzzzzz, the text and illustrations introduce readers to the wonder that is science. Schwartz has carefully selected each of the 26 topics to cover life (clone, DNA, rot) earth (black hole, fault, universe), and physical science (element, light, pH) topics. These are largely multi-page entries that explore the topics in more depth than is found in a traditional textbook, and with more engaging language.

Schwartz is at the top of his game here, writing with wit and precision. Here's an example from the entry C is for Clone (p.10).
Warning: Do not read this. . . yet! Read D is for DNA first. Yes, we know that C comes before D, but you have to understand DNA before you can understand what a clone is. Hey, we didn't invent the alphabet.
From here Schwatrz goes on to introduce Dolly. In the next paragraph he defines clone.
A clone is a living thing that has exactly the same genes as it's parent. Genetically speaking, Dolly is an identical copy of her mother. That's not true for you. Like everyone else in the world, you get half your genes from your mother and half from your father.
Each entry also contains a list of other words the letter stands for. In the case of C, the additional words are cell, chemical bond, chemical reaction, cold-blooded, compound, condense, and covalent bond. These additional words are defined in the glossary of the book. Including these additional words is a good way to pique the interest of readers and may encourage them to explore other topics.

The illustrations are quirky, highly entertaining, and nicely complement the text. Altogether, this is a terrific volume that is student-friendly and jam-packed with information.

Perfect Together
Many entries in the Schwartz book talk about the work that scientists do. For example, in the section on K is for Kitchen, readers are encouraged to solve some problems. A number of questions about solubility are posed and experiments are suggested. Once they complete them, readers are congratulated for doing "real science." After reading WHAT IS SCIENCE?, share some of these excerpts that highlight science as a process.

For additional resources, consider these sites.
  • Read the NSTA position statement on Nature of Science.
  • The Understanding Science site from the University of California Museum of Paleontology offers "a straightforward presentation of science, as an intensely human endeavor—a multifaceted process that both students and scientists can use to better understand the natural world. Instead of oversimplifying science into a five-step recipe, the site emphasizes the dynamic and iterative nature of the process, as well as the roles of creativity and community in scientific progress."
  • The Science Learning Hub at the University of Waikato (New Zealand) has an extensive set of resources on teaching the Nature of Science.
  • The Butterfly Project involves students in an observational study of Painted Lady Butterflies while helping them learn about the nature of science.

1 comment:

  1. The Science Alphabet book sounds great! Your question about defining the word science reminded me of a post I did a while back where I talked about us doing "science experiments" all the time :

    I liked "Small White Flowers" a lot! (I caught up on your previous posts a bit while I was here.)