Bringing the Unknown to Students

Next up in our series of Zooniverse Teacher Ambassador Workshop participants,  we have a guest post from Dave Pinkus.  Dave is a Science Teacher at the Biotechnology High School in Freehold, New Jersey.  Dave has been teaching High School science courses for 13 years and is the 2013-2014 Monmouth County Teacher of the Year.

I often forget what made me fall in love with science, decide to major in geology and later teach children physical science.  I don’t particularly enjoy Newton’s Laws, or Stoichiometry, or measuring Strikes and Dips.  What I fell in love with as a teenager was that there are tangible things that are unknown and I could be the one to describe them.  Through most of my career as a physics teacher, I have given very few opportunities to my students to be intimate with the truly unknown.

Last year, I created a few opportunities, including a research project and engineering design challenges.  It is very difficult to fit these activities into our busy curriculum and it is sometimes just as difficult to have the materials that are necessary.  These projects also lacked the authenticity factor of doing real research to answer something that the broader science community currently doesn’t know.

The Zooniverse sites are fabulous platforms that can deliver authentic data to our students and do not require lab equipment or much time out of our normal lessons.  The data is presented in a format that should be digestible for most grade levels.  In addition to utilizing the sites for class projects this year, I am also planning on introducing one or two of the sites at Back to School Night for my student’s parents.  I will be sure to introduce the same sites to my students on the days leading up to Back to School Night.  This can really afford an opportunity for my students and their parents to have a meaningful STEM experience, together.

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