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Dr. Stephanie Ryan is a chemist with a Ph.D. in Learning Sciences and M.S. and B.S. in Chemistry. She enjoys creating superior educational products and content using her background in science. Although an academic at heart, Dr. Stephanie is passionate about learning through play. She is the owner of Ryan Education Consulting LLC as well as a mother and active “Instagrammer”.
When it comes to learning all about science, Dr. Ryan has a great method for getting free resources. The first is her new blog she created where parents and teachers can pick from a wide range of topics to learn about. She also finds free worksheets and lessons on Teachers Pay Teachers and shares those links with her community.
Everyone Uses Science
Dr. Ryan truly believes that anyone can be a scientist if they are not kept from it. Because we have a school system where prejudice and bias exist, often, only certain students get encouraged to study in the STEM field. Science should be a right for everyone because it has such an important role in our everyday life. Science connects people to the world around them. When we learn about biology, we understand the different life forms that make up habitats and ecosystems. In botany or ecology we figure out what plants need and what impacts the earth. Not to mention, we have come so far as a society because of chemistry. Playing with energy and experimenting has given us many of our modern luxuries. To summarize, everyday we rely on science in some type of way.
Science can also help us understand problems and solutions. Our species has carried a reputation for negatively changing the climate. The temperature of Earth is rising, more animals than ever before are hunted to extinction, our rivers are polluted, fires burn out of control, the list goes on...These are big problems, but thanks to researchers and scientists, we don’t have to give up yet. There are many ways we can avoid contributing to the roots of these issues. The mindset shifts that are needed to make science accessible to everyone is to stop overthinking how you’re going to teach science. Let it be easy. All students need to do is look around them.
“I needed to take a step back and not be so academic about it—not like create bullet points for the things [my son] needs to know, but more like let’s let him explore his world and learn.”
Tackling Mindset Shifts to Teaching Science
Dr. Ryan explains that the pandemic basically necessitated a simple approach to science projects. Doing class from home meant that teachers had to really think about what materials everyone had access to in their home. None of it was complex, and that’s a trend she hopes will continue. Another thing that can help students not be intimidated by science is to spend more time talking about the “how” and “why” behind the “what”. Explaining things through a bunch of definitions and formulas is not the easiest way for students to be able to grasp those concepts. So a shift in curriculum and in teaching this subject can be great for overcoming mental barriers.
Failure Is Part of the Process
If we want to see these dreams become possible for everyone, we have to be willing to let our kids fail. This is certainly related to science and the natural tendency children have to experiment. When they don’t know the way to do something, they may not get it right at first. But eventually, through trial and error, through questioning, reasoning, and paying attention, they will get it. This is a much more rewarding experience than just handing them answers to the unknown. This is something we can model for students too because often, there are things we don’t have the answer to. And even though it is so easy to just look it up in a matter of seconds, it’s going to do much more for your own growth if you use your own brain and science skills to figure it out. This just goes to show that no matter what age you are, you never stop learning!
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Lindsay is a educator and leadership coach who helps teachers develop engaging project-based curricula, fosters student and teacher voice, and works to advance racial and gender equity and culturally responsive practice.