Students are asked questions like, “Why is the moon half dark at night?” or “How does a telescope work?” and then discuss their ideas. They are given equipment to investigate the phenomenon, either recreating it or building replicas in the form of models. Individual memorization is less important than the team of participants working together to acquire the data reliably and critiquing each other’s ideas to develop the most accurate explanation for the phenomena they’ve seen.
Expand upon this idea and imagine an education built entirely on this model of instruction, in which children encounter many such challenges over the course of elementary, middle, and secondary school. In the words of Dr. Bruce Alberts, former president of the National Academies of Sciences and editor-in-chief of Science Magazine, “children who are prepared for life in this way would be great problem solvers in the workplace, with the abilities and the can-do attitude that are needed to be competitive in the global economy. Even more important, they will also be more rational human beings – people who are able to make wise judgments for their family, their community, and their nation.”
The Four Courses
NSC306J: Energy and Force
Introduces the idea of energy, how energy is transferred into various forms of potential and kinetic energy in a system through interactions (forces), and the small particle model. Students then apply these concepts in three examples: gravity, electrical circuits, and sound waves.
NSC306K: Chemistry and Geology
Students learn that electrostatic potential energy is what holds our world together utilizing the small particle model of matter. They learn that elements, molecules and atoms are what make up our universe. We discuss the Periodic Table and show how chemical bonds have the potential to store chemical energy.
NSC306L: Biological Systems
The themes of matter and energy are integrated into the major course topics of radiant energy, energy transfer in living things, characteristics of living things, compartments, inheritance, and variation.
NSC306M: Astronomy and Earth Climate
Building upon the inquiry-based methodology and content of previous Hands-on-Science courses (NSC 306J and NSC 306K are prerequisites), we will tackle the fields of astronomy and Earth science this semester. In this semester, we study several topics, including phenomena on Earth and beyond – how distant objects interact and how we perceive them.