what's the right answer?

In her K/1 class (ages five to seven), the 'fuzz was doing "the weather" when an argument broke out between those who thought the clouds "move the Sun around" and those who thought the clouds "block out the Sun". She let the discussion proceed, encouraging contributions. In the end, the "move the Sun around" group got the consensus. What to do? You can correct them all, and then they learn that scientific truths are handed down by more knowledgeable authorities ("How do you know the Universe is expanding?" "I read it in a book."). Or you can let it lie, in which case they go home thinking they know something that in fact is wrong. Or (best, but extremely time-consuming), you can go through the process of having them turn their pseudo-scientific explanations into predictions about other phenomena, or have them extrapolate their model into other domains, and then see why or where it breaks. That's (to my mind) the only solution you could possibly call science, but it would require an absolutely radical replacement of the current curriculum and structure of school. The 'fuzz didn't have the right (it was someone else's classroom) to blow the schedule, and she didn't want to be a priestess, so she let it lie and moved on to the next activity.

1 comment:

  1. The instructor could propose some predictions, which the students likely have already tested through observations. (Do clouds move stars around? Do they move buildings around when you are above them in an airplane? Do they move YOU around?) This is not preferable to having the students generate the predictions - but it can save time, have them leaving the classroom with the correct ideas, and lead to them thinking about how to criticize other ideas they may contemplate in the future.