Thinking About an Elementary Science Education Curriculum:
The Brain as Scientist and Science as Story Telling

Paul Grobstein
Notes for Conversation
Lansdowne Friends School
17 February 2006

Starting Places

Science as Story Telling and Story Revision

Linear scienceSeriously loopy science
  
Science as body of facts established by specialized fact-generating people and process

Science as successive approximations to Truth


Science as authority about "natural world"

Science as ongoing process of getting it less wrong, potentially usable by and contributed to by everyone

Science as ongoing making of observations, intepreting/summarizing, making new observations, making new summaries

Science as process of inquiry into anything, one which everybody is equiped to do/can get better at/be further empowered by, - a way of making sense of what is but even more of exploring what might yet be

Don't "teach science" but instead ...

  • Create environments in which students can become better scientists
  • Model for them the process of skeptical/humble, creative, transactional inquiry
  • Think of science as a practical tool, continually being adapted
  • Think of "the crack" as a feature rather than a bug (there are always multiple possible summaries, directions for new exploration)
  • Becoming more skilled at process is the primary objective. "Content" demands can/will be satisfied by appropriate sequences of environments

Teach/do science as:

making observations, interpreting/summarizing/creating stories, in order to see what has not yet been seen, conceive what has not yet been conceived (by oneself and/or others)

Trying It Out

Which of the following two stories do you prefer?

  1. The earth is flat (Flat Earth Society)
  2. The earth is round
Because of ... Is one or the other story true? Have there been others? Are there others? Will there be? Which of the following two stories do you prefer?
  1. The sun goes around the earth
  2. The earth goes around the sun
Because of ... Is one or the other story true? Have their been others? Are there others? Will there be?
Scientific stories are frequently efforts to summarize the widest possible range of observations, always motivate new observations and hence new stories, should never be understood as "authoritative" or "believed in", do not compete with or invalidate other stories. Key issues about scientific stories
  • What observations do they summarize?
  • What new observations do they motivate?

Which of the following stories do you prefer?

  1. Existing life forms (including humans) are as they are because of a previous and ongoing process of evolution consisting of random change and natural selection (differential reproductive success).
  2. Existing life forms (including humans) are as they are because of repeated creative acts of a supernatural being with a plan and intent?
  3. Existing life forms (including humans) are as they are because of an initial creative act with a supernatural being with a plan and intent?
  4. Other?
Because of ...

The Brain as a Scientist/Explorer/Story Teller/Story Reviser

The conscious/unconscious distinction

Conscious stories are not always "tested"; can go in one ear and out the other without impacting practice, understandings

Hands-on activities are fine for certain kinds of learning but do not necessarily generalize or produce improvements in ability to interpret or to appreciate the difference between observation and interpretation

Both hands-on and interpretive activities are needed to become more skilled at "making observations/intereting/summarizing/creating stories, in order to see what has not yet been seen/conceive what has not yet been conceived."

Just as observations can affect interpretations, so too can interpretations affect observations.

Try out noticing how interpretations affect observations, how observations can lead to new interpretations, further questions.

Things to try and build into lesson plans

For further exploration:


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