Real-Life Science

Mary Frances Smitley
September 11, 2000 | FOSS in Schools

The classroom is decorated with brightly-colored bulletin boards. Student work is creatively displayed on the walls. Students' desks are aligned in small pods ready for group work. Yet, as you enter the classroom, you are distracted from its order. Groups of students on the floor draw your attention. They are seriously busy—shaking, rolling, and observing bottles filled with various liquids. You're amazed by the children's intense interest, so you venture closer to listen as the teacher asks questions.

Perhaps it's time to get your hearing checked. First graders are answering questions with vocabulary such as "transparent," "translucent," and "viscous." Not only are these children using the vocabulary correctly, but also they appear to savor each syllable of the words. One would think "viscous" was a fine wine (or at least a chocolate ice cream cone).

Are these children in a gifted program? Is this school located in a wealthy suburb? No! These are students of various abilities attending a school where 99 percent of the pupils qualify for free breakfast and lunch. The class is part of a large, urban school district with all of the challenges one associates with such a system.

Why are these students "loving" science? The teacher is using the FOSS Solids and Liquids Module. Students are constructing understanding through inquiry. FOSS provides experiences that help students formulate predictions and explanations for scientific concepts. Each student plays an important role in the learning process. Hands-on activities, graphic organizers, discussions, and group and individual explorations reach out to grab and hold the interest of six- and seven-year-olds.

Impressed? When was the last time you were eating breakfast and your six-year-old stated that her pancake syrup shows a property of liquids called "viscous"? It can happen!

Mary Frances Smitley wrote this vignette as a student of Dr. Jodi Haney at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. You can find an article by Dr. Haney called "Getting the Word Out to Decision Makers" on page 8 of the Fall 1995 FOSS Newsletter.