The sound of science

While visiting an elementary classroom to observe a wonderful inquiry-based science activity, I could easily hear all the science that was being discovered.  Yes, that’s right – I could HEAR the science.

Science is not a quiet process and if your students are being silent during science, there is a chance they might be missing out on some very important science practices.  While having students silently complete worksheets might be something occurring in your program, it is one of those areas we would want to start to see less of our science instruction.  (See New Vision for Science Education)

Instead of silent and independent work, we should be hearing student voices during science time.  Why should there be a “sound of science?”  Let’s look at a few of  the practices the students should be engaging in:

Asking Questions and Defining Problems

It is hard for students to ask questions if they aren’t talking about those questions!  By having students articulate their questions both orally and in written form, students are able to learn from their peers and build on the ideas of the classroom scientific community.  To know if students are asking the questions appropriate to their grade level, teachers can look at this resource from NSTA that outlines the elements of asking questions at each grade band.

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Again, while students certainly could construct an explanation in written form, the learning becomes more meaningful and deeper when students are able to engage in discussions with their peers about the explanations and solutions they are constructing.  Grade band expectations for the elements of this practice can be seen here.

Engaging in Arguments from Evidence

It goes without saying students need to be actively involved in dialogue with their teacher and classmates in order to negotiate their understanding.  Articulating their thoughts out loud allows students to see the connections between their reasoning and the scientific claims they are giving.  What this practice looks like at each grade band can be viewed here.

Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

The NGSS hub at describes this practice in this way: “Scientists and engineers must be able to communicate clearly and persuasively the ideas and methods they generate. Critiquing and communicating ideas individually and in groups is a critical professional activity.”  While some of the elements of this practice are, indeed, quieter activities as students research, read, and write, other parts of this practice will require students to be talking with one another.

Control the chaos

As your students discuss and discover, it is possible the noise level can escalate to a point higher than appropriate for the situation.  This is where teachers employ their variety of classroom management strategies to gain students attention or remind them to bring their voice volume down to a more appropriate level.

Edutopia put together a collection of 25 Attention-Grabbing Tips for the Classroom, these tips were submitted by teachers from a variety of grade levels and locations.

As your students become active participants in their science education, smile to yourself and begin to enjoy “the sound of science.”