Out of the Box Teaching

Exemplary science teaching may look different to each individual person based on their past experiences and preferences for learning. Did they have effective or non-effective teachers? Do they remember their science classes being fun and hands on or were they boring? Did they even like science? This graphic displays the responses of some people who are not science education majors when asked what words come to mind when I say “exemplary science teaching”.

My opinions about what exemplary science teaching means vary from the answers given by those I interviewed. The words and phrases that immediately come to my mind include:

  • creative
  • hands-on
  • inquiry based
  • real life application
  • memorable
  • fosters a love for science

Although the first words we associate with exemplary science teaching may be different, all of these words and phrases play an important role in defining who I want to be on my journey toward becoming an exemplary science teacher.

But how in the world am I going to get there?!

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A good first step may be to look at other exemplary teachers and use them as an inspiration. In this Ted Talk, Danielle N. Lee shares one of the unique ways she teaches science to her students; a way that involves both learning and getting groovy in the classroom.

Just like Ms. Lee, it is so important to me that I use out of the box teaching techniques while teaching science, whether that be by connecting my lessons to music or sports, or just by including fun activities that get my students curious and asking questions about science.

Out of the Box Lesson Plans & Activities

Not all lesson plans and activities are created equal. Some may be used for getting students to question what is going on around them, some may be used to introduce new topics, and others are simply just for getting students to show what they know. No matter the purpose, science activities should be hands-on, engaging, and make students think. Below are some sample out-of-the-box activities that can be used in science classrooms.

  • Have students create and preform a dramatic play about the cell cycle including all cell phases, mitosis, and finally, death by apoptosis. Allow students to show what they’ve learned being as creative as possible
  • Go to a nearby park and find structures, either man-made or in nature, that mimic parts of the human skeleton. Take pictures of what you find. Do you notice any similarities?
  • Give students a starting point and an ending point and leave them to deduce how they are going to get from point A to point B. For example, give the students a copper solution and let them figure out how to form a copper precipitate on their own.

This website describes other innovative strategies and methods that can be used in the science classroom. These strategies can be used to develop creative, hands-on lesson plans!

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Students are not meant to just be students while in a science classroom, they are meant to be scientists. They are meant to question, explore, create, and experiment, and it’s time we start letting them. Not all students are going to love science, but it’s important that they know how to be curious and how to question what is going on around them. Placing an importance on inquiry and hands-on learning in the classroom will not only improve students’ outlook on science, but will pave the way to exemplary science teaching!

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  1. Thanks Shelby! I’m so glad you enjoyed some of my lesson plan ideas and the website! It’s extremely important to me that I get my students up and moving in order to learn. I think the best activities for learning are those that are hands on and engaging in a multitude of ways. There are so many of the 50 innovative teaching methods that I want to incorporate into my classroom and I will do my best to use as many of them as I can! Some of my favorites are the methods that incorporate science into activities that my students may be interested in such as story telling, role playing, science songs, sports based learning, and constructing models. I know that not every student is going to like science, so the best way to help them learn is by connecting the material to something that they do like! Other methods I plan on incorporating into my classroom include science stations, flipped classrooms, observation stations, and of course, a variety of hands-on labs. Students should have the opportunity to learn in a multitude of different ways. Finally, I would love to utilize science museums and exhibits to show my students how science is applicable to real life!

  2. Hi Caitlin! Thank you for your comment. I really appreciate your question about how I can improve my idea about incorporating music into the classroom (especially for those of us who can’t rap). I’ve always really loved music and it’s very important to me that I incorporate it into some areas of my classroom along with other things that are important to my students. One idea that involves music in the classroom could be to have students create a song or rap over a topic that they recently learned. In my high school English class we had an assignment similar to this and it really helped me to remember the differences between a variety of literary devices and I think it could be quite helpful for specific topics in science as well. If you’re not looking to perform a song in front of your students, there are many resources (Flocabulary is my favorite) that incorporates scientific topics into a catchy songs or raps. These are good ways to introduce topics to students and may even be helpful in getting students to remember specific concepts. I’m sure I’ll be able to expand on this idea more when I start teaching and I would love to let you know what I come up with!

  3. Hi Anna!
    I love all you ideas about how to get the kids’ interests into the classroom! That is one of the best ways to ensure your students’ are actually enjoying the material and your class. Hip hop and rapping would work great especially in more urban schools. But I can’t rap to save my life, Do you have anytime to improve this or simply any musical performances I want to incorporate into my lessons?

  4. Great post! I specifically enjoyed reading over your lesson plan ideas. One of the best things an exemplary science teacher can do is get their class active and those lessons did just that. I would much rather perform a play about the cell cycle than read about it in a text book! Acting it out would help me understand it better as well. I also loved the website with 50 innovating teaching methods in science and will for sure use some of those ideas in my future classroom. Which methods out of the 5o are your favorite and do you plan on using?

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