Jimmy Karlan has a vision. He sees classrooms full of kids energized by science, eager to learn and ready to push themselves beyond expectations. He sees a science curriculum propelled by fun, inquiry and real-world applications rather than test scores and memorization.
Karlan, who directs the Science Teacher Certification program at Antioch University New England (AUNE), recently shared his vision as part of the Spring Speaker Series. He made the case that if our science classes were more like the television programs Mythbusters, Junkyard Wars, Rough Science, and Dr. Carlson’s Science Theater, kids would not only learn more readily and retain what they learn, they would be eager to get to class.
As teachers who graduate from the AUNE program go out into classrooms as student teachers and later as teachers, this vision is spreading. Alumni in attendance at the event spoke of their success in creating experiential lessons that motivate students to find answers, to compete with each other to find a result, and to make connections between the facts and their application in the world.
It’s this real-world application that is the clincher. Karlan pointed out that science classes need not only the experimental and competitive fun of the television shows he used as examples, but projects need a narrative and a plot. Like the film Fly Away Home, in which a girl teaches geese to migrate by leading them with her ultralight airplane, kids need to see that what they learn has real-world implications. Let them help restore a watershed or design ways to reduce energy consumption at their schools and they will remember what they learn. More important, they will take with them their curiosity and knowledge that they have the power to learn, Karlan said.
Two more events are scheduled for the Spring Speaker Series. They start at 7 p.m. in the Community Room:
April 14, “Invasive Plants in New Hampshire,” with Christopher Mattrick, forest botanist for the White Mountain National Forest.
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May 19. “Communities of Artists, Arts in the Community,” a panel discussion with David Macy (OM ’00), resident director of the MacDowell Colony, in Peterborough, New Hampshire; Lenny Matczynski, executive and artistic director of the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music, in Nelson, New Hampshire; and Aaron Wiederspahn, executive director of The Starving Artist, in Keene, New Hampshire.
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