Educating and changing minds by actually doing science

skull lucyby kevinzim

How Did We Get Here?
[Via AAAS News – RSS Feed]

Science Magazine Prize Goes To Engaging Human Evolution Class

Students measure chimpanzee and human fossil skulls as part of their self-directed human evolution studies, in a course that won the Science Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction


UW Bothell is just a few miles from me. I have been very impressed with its approach to modern education. They seem to really get how things are changing.

Because they are a relatively young, but expanding campus, they can often get things done in a way that might be more difficult at an older university. I have not met a professor or administrator there who has not been very worthwhile talking with. I keep working at ways to collaborate with them.

This particular class uses a facilitated approach to let the students discover the science themselves. They do science, collecting data to understand the world around us. It hits a very basic aspect that is so often not demonstrated very well in science classes.

We are all scientists. You cannot live in the world and not do science daily. Deciding which lane to get into during rush hour is based on scientific principles. Cooking dinner is basic science.Choosing which clothes to where on a rainy day involves science. 

Science is a mode of rational thought based on comparing constructed models to reality. The better the constructed model fits, the better science being performed.

Here the students start by defining a model – why are chimps and humans so similar – and then examine real data to see how well their model fits what they see. When they see tht reality does not fit a model, they are encouraged to adapt the model or find a new one.

What a powerful way to learn. And they should actually be graded by how well they do science than if their original model was correct.

And it seems to not only teach them about evolution but also to alter some of their own personal beliefs.

It makes a difference when you do it yourself than have someone tell you something. It is not an easy way to teach but it is a more effective way. and new tools are making it easier all the time.