Thursday, September 27, 2012

Nurturing curiosity

Last weekend, I attended the Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference in Denver. It was a terrific meeting (such an enthusiastic, involved group!), and I had the opportunity to talk with agent Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary, and editors Emily Clement of Arthur A. Levine Books and Sylvie Frank of Holiday House--gracious women, every one.

As a non-fiction writer, I paid close attention when the Common Core State Standards came up. Both Karen and Sylvie mentioned the importance of tying books to the Common Core. If a story has the potential to be used in the classroom, it will be much more likely to get published.

More and more, teachers are looking for books that allow them to "teach smarter, not harder," as a principal at a nearby school so eloquently put it. What does that mean? Teachers need books that teach literacy while providing curriculum-related content. Books that kill two birds with one stone, if you will.

(As an aside: If you teach science, Melissa Stewart has a terrific Pinterest board to help you find books to fit some of the Common Core standards.)

Teachers need to find ways to teach math and science simultaneously. Science and math are closely connected, and yet I get the sense that they're typically taught as completely distinct subjects. Do they have to be? Can't we interweave them, thereby increasing the amount of time available to dedicate to both?

For example, in a life cycles unit a class may order caterpillars. Watching them pupate and emerge as adult butterflies is a remarkable experience, but it can be so much more.


Order caterpillars that are smaller, those that have more time to grow. Then have the students measure them. Weigh them. Graph the change in size over time. Weigh plant material before it's given to the butterflies, then again a day later. How much weight was lost? Was the same amount gained by the caterpillars? Why or why not? If the plants lost more weight than the caterpillars gained, where could the rest have gone?

Think you don't have enough science time to extend the life cycles unit? That's the beauty of "teaching smarter"--you can squeeze science into the daily math routine. And numbers are so much more interesting when they mean something.

I think--or rather hope--that the Common Core will encourage just this kind of cross-over in the classroom. After meeting with the principal mentioned above, and one of the teachers at her school, I strongly believe that we can again foster a love of science--and math--by returning to a hands-on approach and blurring the lines between subjects.

Math is fun and cool when it has real-life application. And science is all about curiosity--after all, what is a scientist but a kid who never stopped asking "Why?" 

The possibilities for exploration and discovery, critical thinking and inquiry-based learning are endless if we can just start to see the curriculum in a new way. 

No comments:

Post a Comment