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Kids Need to be Entertained to Learn?

Kids Need to be Entertained to Learn?

My husband is a chemical engineer, and he is very critical of the fun-focus where math and science is concerned in public schools today. Our little girl is in grade two and loves science. It is the class we hear most about at the supper table. She will sit through her dad’s driest technical explanation of anything science-related in fact, such is her interest.

He worries though that her teachers are undoing his efforts with fun, but educationally meaningless, activities. In his opinion, the sciences are fascinating enough without saddling them with an impossible to maintain entertainment factor. Science, he will tell anyone who’ll listen, is work, but work can be more engaging than any Muppet or Wii game if it’s approached properly and related to a child’s real world. This view is very different from the one the President is touting in his belief that video games and more passive hours in front of the television are the answer to the country’s lagging in the fields of math and science.

As a former classroom teacher, I can attest to the fact that there are bigger issues for science and math than the lack of song and dance. For science in particular, there has never been a standard curriculum that ensures that each child learns the same basic things at the same grade level. As a result, children arrive in high school possessed of a mish-mash of science that may or may not be enough of a base for the biology, chemistry and physics courses typically taught at that level.

Couple this with the severe lack of teachers with science degrees teaching at the elementary and junior high/middle school levels and the rate of readiness is further jeopardised.

Even at the high school level, chemistry and physic teachers are hard to come by. Competition from private industry is fierce and college students with the proper credentials are lured into the private sector with higher salaries and jobs that are far easier than teaching rooms full of hormonal teenagers. School districts are tied to a seniority based pay scale simply can’t compete.

But the fun factor dogs education. It can’t be completely dismissed as an issue, it seems, despite the fact that the data on teaching via media isn’t all that convincing. Schools have been pummelled in the last decade with the idea that what they do is dull and kills the desire to learn. 
Boredom equals sinking standardised test scores more than aptitude and effort in the minds of non-educators. As an English teacher who had 13 year-olds happily diagramming sentences and reading Shakespeare, I found that relevancy out-weighs fun in most instances. A child convinced there is a real relationship between what they are learning and the real world will readily learn anything. Even if it isn’t in cartoon form. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Like adults, kids can be taught to recognise value and they will respond accordingly.

What do you think?  What has succeeded with your kids?  Tell us. 

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Ann Bibby

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28 comments

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2:52PM PST on Feb 28, 2012

Science should be hands on with someone who understands and loves it.

2:01AM PST on Dec 10, 2009

i think its good to have. Too much entertaintment in learning can draw attentionf rom the learning materials, and focus on the entertaintment bit instead.

a lil entertainment is good but it cant be entertaining all the time

1:39AM PST on Dec 10, 2009

Kids often don't understand yet that learning is necessary for their future, so they don't like learnig. Some entertainment might thus give them motivation.

1:02AM PST on Dec 10, 2009

Education, even for the very youngest, should be aimed at producing skilled, hard-working, law-abiding, well-informed, healthy citizens. The prosperity of any nation depends upon that. There is no easy path to acquiring skill in anything and it is important that children should learn from an early age that to become a proficient, useful, intelligent member of society will entail real effort; it is not a game. Moreover they must be brought to realise that calculators and computers do not afford a complete substitute for human intellect. To this end a well-balanced course of literacy, numeracy, science, history, geography, foreign languages, arts, music, physical activities (gymnastics, games) should be provided, even for the youngest, and the pupils made to understand that their future success depends upon at least an adequate mastery of all aspects, that it is vitally relevant to their lives and livelihood. These assertions are based upon fifty-five years of teaching all ages from four- to eighteen-year olds, in a highly-competitive environment, and rejoicing in my pupils’ achievements.

9:02PM PST on Dec 9, 2009

i'll tell you what worked for me, parents who gave me one-on-one attention when i got home - helping me with homework, reading with me, doing "fun" science experiment, teaching me to read blue prints and work with tools to build a play house, etc. i learned more with my father and mother at my side than i did in any classroom - school reinforced those lessons, taught me how to work with others, taught me how to socialize. I could read before first grade, because of my parents and hooked on phonic. I did math skills way about my age level because my dad saw it as a productive way to spend time together. Don't get me wrong I had great teachers, and I was fortunate that my elementary school not only had gifted programs (giving you the opporutinty to help out teachers in younger grades and do enrichment activities) but we also had a wonderful crop of teachers. My middle school years on the other hand - horrid, teachers who not only didn't encourage me to succeed but actually held me back (read 6th and 7th grade level books, even though i was reading at a college level - because my teacher wanted me to take the multiple choice tests on the computer, instead of being willing to compromise with me writing book reports).

Each school has it's good and bad teachers.... but what we mustn't forget is our parents are our first and best teachers.

7:03PM PST on Dec 9, 2009

Thank you

7:03PM PST on Dec 9, 2009

Thanks.

5:10PM PST on Dec 9, 2009

We need to go back to the curriculum from the 50s. 1st through 6th grade were devoted to the 3 'Rs' with 7 hours a day to cover them. You don't have to read many submittals even on this site to know one of those 'Rs' has been completely missed.
7th through 9th expanded Reading to grammar (another lost art), communications (how to talk on a phone) and age appropriate literature; math finished up 6th grade and expanded to Alegebra and Geometry; social studies explored state and early American history, and Science explored Biology. 10th through 12th explored English Lit, advanced math ( Advanced Geometry, Advanced Algebra, and Trig.,), and science moved on to Chemistry and Physics; Social Studies explored World History, the American History, and a class called Civics where you learned about the government, the courts, voting, and personal finances. Electives covered languages (I took Latin), band, shop, and many I'm forgetting.
In grade school you had 2 recesses a day. 15 minutes to burn energy. In Jr. high you started getting Phys. Ed. That lasted through high school. 40 minutes of burning excess energy.
That curriculum put man on the Moon, built the SR-71, and formed the basis for all the advances we use today.

5:09PM PST on Dec 9, 2009

Kim J.: You can't believe how mad Florida schools make me. I'm not blaming the teachers. FCAT should be burned. The politicians that slapped themselves on the back during the Bush regime for 'cutting taxes' should be horse whipped. The only thing they accomplished was making a difficult situation worse.
When the lottery money came in, the state removed an equal amount that came from the treasury.
I moved down from Ohio in '88, but not until my daughter graduated from High School in Ohio.
I wouldn't let my grand children move down here for anything before they complete high school.
The school year is too long.
The teachers are under paid.
The curriculum is screwed up six ways from Sunday.
AND THE GRADES KEEP GOING DOWN.
Now, many districts are talking about going year round. Hey, if it's a bad movie ( think 'DUNE' ) why increase the length by a 1/3rd?
The old rule is, 'if you find yourself in a hole, STOP DIGGING!'

3:48PM PST on Dec 9, 2009

I think one reason kids are so bored with social studies & history is that people teaching it do so in the course of dates & facts. They forget that history is the story of real people, who lived real lives, who wore fashion of the period, danced and listened to the music of the period and children played games ...One of my most favorite classes was a World History class. The professor had traveled all over and had brought back artifacts, and photos. It made the history come alive!
The one thing about history is, if we don't learn it, we are doomed to repeat it.
Science is the same way as is Math...and if the main reason for learning is to encourage critical thinking - if our innovations are formed by those who think outside the box; then what good is teaching to a test? Some of our greatest mathematicians & scientists would have flunked those tests...

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