Children are naturally inquisitive. Why is the sky blue? How do airplanes fly? Why is eating carrots or brocolli good for me? Little kids have an insatiable curiosity and desire to know. When children make observations of the world around them, ask questions, and seek answers, they are thinking and acting like budding scientists! In our science, technology, engineering, and math-driven world, we as parents and educators do well when we nurture the innate curiosity of young minds. As the 6th grade science teacher at Hanalani’s Lower School, I get to come alongside the students to help them foster and build their inquiring, probing intellect.
Scientists are referred to as investigators—they ask questions or identify problems and do research and experimentation to find answers or solutions. 6th grade students practice being scientific investigators by doing science fair projects over the course of the Fall Semester. Each student engages the scientific method by identifying a problem or asking a question, doing research and learning about the topic, formulating a hypothesis, carrying out experiments to test the hypothesis, analyzing the data collected, drawing a conclusion, and communicating his/her findings. This inquiry, project-based approach to learning enables students to see the real-world relevance in what they do and through it, students get to hone critical skills such as problem-solving, communication, and creativity. Students are challenged to do their best as they enter their projects into the school science fair and have the opportunity to move on to the district and state fairs.
Speaking of project-based learning, 6th graders undertake a curriculum to collectively prepare for a grade-wide, NASA-space-program-like project called Rendezvous with Comet Halley, a field trip mission at the Challenger Center Hawaiʻi. Over the course of a couple of months, students learn about space, team work, analytical tools, the use of electronic equipment such as the ammeter, and scientific concepts such as mass, volume, density, and hydraulics. The engaging, fun, and realistic nature of the Comet Halley mission challenges the students while eliciting their best individual and group efforts.
Besides the Challenger Center, 6th graders also go on a field trip to The University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa GENE-is Day, a program that engages students in a series of activities that connect genetics and agriculture to the school curriculum. Being on the universitycampus, students get to imagine themselves as university scientists as they participate in a plant cell lab, DNA extraction lab, an interactive lecture on human and plant traits, and an agricultural talk that highlights the relationship between science and the food we eat.
When students aren’t busy undertaking science fair projects, preparing for the Comet Halley mission, going on “funtastic” field trips, or challenging themselves by being on the Elementary Science Olympiad team, they are amassing knowledge and understanding of some of my most favorite topics of science instruction and learning: atoms, molecules, and basic chemistry, cell biology, DNA and genetics, the human brain and the nervous system, stars and the solar system. When students gain the picture in their mind of how all matter is made up of atoms and atoms bonding to other atoms, of the innards of the cell and how all living things are made of cells, of how the versatile DNA molecule contains the instructional codes for life and passing on of life, of the complexity of the brain, and of the unfathomable enormity of galactic objects, sizes, and distances, they are glimpsing into God’s creation and indeed into God Himself, as the Bible declares that God reveals Himself through nature, His creation.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Yes, science is about making observations, and asking questions and seeking answers. Science is a tool that man can employ to gain knowledge and understanding and for solving problems. Students can use science and learn through science to better steward the world that God has placed us in (see the dominion or creation mandate in Genesis 1:26-28). Most significant of all, science ought to bring one into awe of God’s wisdom, power, and magnificence.
My underlying aim in teaching science to the boys and girls of 6th grade is to bring them closer to God. My prayer is that students, through learning science with bible integration, will gain the correct lenses through which to see and interpret the world. Worldview matters. When students learn to think scientifically in the framework of what the Word of God teaches, it ought to yield hearts and minds of true worship.