Friday, May 9, 2014

Taking History into the Science Classroom

By: Nina Kendall
Traditional history struggles to maintain its position in modern curriculum. Efforts like STEM and
STEAM push it aside in the same manner that the Space Race did in the 1950's.  Yet, I would argue that the Social Science disciplinary content and skills help to improve teaching about the nature and impact of scientific and technical development.
Historians study change over time in the most basic sense. This is a key skill in understanding scientific development.  Students and teachers want students to understand how the world, and the field of study was changed by a development. This is what historians do.
Historians and Social Scientists organize knowledge and give it context.  Historians and Social Scientists take science out of the lab and place it in the world. Economists determine whether it has profitable commercial applications. Voters and Legislators determine if the opportunity costs of science and technology is acceptable. Geographers measure how the natural and cultural landscape are impacted by science and technology.
Here are a few suggestions on how to use history to improve understanding of science in the world.
*Use timelines to track changes over time. Provided students with the parameters to better follow impact of science.
*Teach history of knowledge concepts. Don't just show that we understand a new piece of science. Show how that new piece of knowledge changes what can be done or considered as possible.
*Ask about science and technology applications and cost. Show how voters and consumers can and do influence what can be done and how it is done.
*Use social sciences skills like charting and graphing to measure changes in the world. Teach students the value of data and what it says beyond scientific and technological development.

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