>From: Steve Means <email@example.com>
I don't suppose that I am adding anything to the discussion here, but I would like to point out how closely (perhaps exactly) Steve Means' project mimics real science.
>My students do a long term project as part of their math work. I ask
No real science gets done over night. >that each student select something to investigate mathematically. The >topic must be something they have loved for years and expect to love in >the future.
Most real scientists are in their particular field because they fell in love with that field at one point.
>Students must develop a strategy for gathering, interpreting >and presenting data.
Real scientists could call this sentence their entire job description.
>Students must find a mentor, generally an adult >from the community who works in the field of their interest.
Graduate school, anyone?
Students >are expected to do some research including at least one source from the >WWW.
Background research comprises a large percentage of any scientist's time.
>Students are not expected to complete their study, that is, they >are not expected to limit what they are doing to something they can >complete in one year. They just must make significant progress. Many >students continue a project over several years. Many students combine >their project with work for other classes.
This is the part that really caught my attention. One of the biggest discrepancies between how science is presented in school and how science is really done is that most physics, biology, and chemistry lab assignments are lock-step, prefabricated, artificial and self contained. The only "joy of discovery" possible is accomplished by the students that deviate from the assignment in order to try to blow something up or make it smell really bad. These students, incidentally, are often the ones that go on to pursue careers in science, because they are the only ones that figured out that science is exciting.
>Students are expected to keep their classmates advised of their progress >on their project and to involve their classmates in the project in as >many ways as possible. Presentations of the project should use as many >media and methods as possible. Most presentations are interactive.
Another vital part of a scientist's job.
>Because each project is selected as a negotiation between student and >teacher, the topics are "real" to the students.
Almost like getting a grant, maybe?
Thanks for an inspirational post, Steve! It sounds like your students are getting a better look at real world science than they could get from many undergraduate institutions.