Learning to Love Science

Author // Cathy
Posted in // Cathy's Blog

Chemistry is impossible! Physics is for smart kids! Biology is one long booooring list of things to memorize! Sound familiar? To be sure, there are students who are engaged in the classroom, love and even excel in science.  However, there are too many others who are disconnected and turned off. Feeling overwhelmed, they see learning as an exercise in regurgitating facts for points. They blame the teacher, the text, even their own brains (“I can’t do science!”), but the blame game never gets them very far, it only fuels self-doubt and results in poor performance.

So what’s a person trapped in chemistry class, lost in physics lab or sleeping through middle school science to do? How can you make sense of the avalanche of seemingly unrelated facts you are asked to learn? The secret is making connections! It is connections that bring a subject to life. Make understanding the goal, not rote memorization.

The key to success in science is discovering how seemingly separate topics relate to one another. If you see how new information connects with what you have already learned, you will gain a deeper understanding and no longer need to rely on memorizing facts. Once you can visualize how the facts connect, not only do you know them because they make sense to you, but you can also recall and apply them in later units and tests. You feel confident about what you have learned and more engaged with the topic and with the course.

So get curious. Ask questions. What is the connection between Newton’s laws, the previous topic, and the current unit on projectile motion? What is the connection between atomic theory, valence electrons and chemical bonding? Why is the teacher presenting the subjects in this order? What are the logical connections here?

Get help with answering these questions. Your teacher is the obvious place to begin. Do you meet with him or her when you have questions? What about class notes? Are you taking them? Are you paying close attention to what the teacher is emphasizing in class? Even if you understand the particular fact the teacher is explaining, ask yourself how that information connects to what you’ve already learned.  If you don’t see any connection, ask.

Do you read the textbook? Even if the teacher didn’t assign it, could it be helpful? Remember, texts are written by teachers whose aim is to present a subject in a logical and engaging way. If you don’t connect with the book the school has provided, ask your teacher to suggest another one. Consider owning a copy of your text so you can make margin notes as you read, thereby helping you stay more focused and alert, especially at the end of a long school day.

Ultimately you are your best teacher. Get started discovering those connections now and the rest of the year will proceed more smoothly. Who knows, you might even join me in thinking that science is exciting!

This blog post was originally published on Sudbury Patch