Connecting Science Lessons With Other Disciplines

Instructor: Vanessa Botts
Students learn best through an interdisciplinary approach that explores the connections among different branches of science and other fields. In this lesson, we will discuss the importance of connecting science lessons with math, history, technology, and other disciplines.

Connecting Science

This is science. Why are we talking about history? When not used to cross-curricular instruction, students will often question the relevance of including a different discipline than the one they are studying. Some studies have shown, however, that there are many educational benefits to interdisciplinary learning, such as gains in the student's ability to recognize bias, think critically, and acknowledge ethical concerns.

By making connections among different branches of science and between science and other fields, an interdisciplinary approach helps students learn and experience first-hand the relevance of each subject as an integrated whole. During this lesson, you will learn the benefits of integrating science with other subjects, as well as some ideas on how to do so.

Science, Engineering, and Math

Most likely, it's not surprising to you that science and math are two of the easiest subjects to combine, but did you know that science (as well as engineering) is essentially applied math? So, when you hear your students ask, When I am even going to use this in the real world?, you can help budding engineers see the relevance of math by providing them with instruction and hands-on activities that showcase how these disciplines merge.

Future engineers are not the only students who will see how math and science mesh, because one of the most obvious ways in which mathematics is used in all branches of science is data gathering and analysis. Depending on your students' ages and levels, you can get them to gather and analyze data on things like plant growth patterns or temperature patterns at different times, days or months.

Of course, there are other ways to combine math, science and engineering. Science and engineering also help math become more relevant for students because they can bring calculations from the abstract to the physical realm…science and engineering make math come to life.

Let's say, for example, that, in addition to having your students work calculation problems about distance and speed on a piece of paper, you also have them turn that same piece of paper into an airplane and fly that airplane to determine its speed and distance traveled first-hand. This is math, physics, and the engineering of flight, all rolled into one!

Or, instead of simply computing by hand the missing length of a right triangle using the Pythagorean Theorem, pose the theorem to your students. They will then build a right triangle out of popsicle sticks, measure the sides and hypotenuse and compare the measurements with the theorem. Now, they can prove the theorem with a real-life model.

Science and History

Science and history go hand-in-hand as history marks the time when scientific advances and discoveries were made…when history was made.

An engaging activity, that is easy to implement and which will give students ranging from elementary school through high school an overview of science throughout history, is creating a historical timeline of scientific advances. In this timeline, important discoveries and historical figures within the field of science could be included.

Remember the activity we discussed in the previous section about proving the Pythagorean Theorem using popsicles? Well, if you were to add to the lesson some background information about the fascinating Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras, you will have combined history as well! By participating in the timeline creation, and the research and discussion that may go along with it, your students are connecting science and history.

Since history is being made right now within the scientific community, combining science and history is not limited to the past. With older students, you could include discussions about ethical and political implications connected to current happenings in science.

Science and Technology

There has never been a better (or more important) time to incorporate technology into your science lessons, and you are in luck, because just about every student enjoys work that involves being online. No matter their age, they love to play!

The possibilities to integrate science and technology are just about limitless. For instance, there are online games to learn the periodic table, to build a robot using code, and even virtual frog dissection.

A quick online search based on which field or topic you are covering in class will yield lots of possibilities. Say for instance you are teaching physics and astronomy, then Stephen Hawking's Snapshots of the Universe app might be just what you are looking for. This app teaches about the basic theories that govern our lives. Through fun experiments, videos, and interactive games, students learn about physics and astronomy.

If you are having a difficult time choosing which online platform or app to use, get your students involved in merging science and technology by giving them the task to research some interesting and educational online resources that can be shared, or used, with the class. As you can imagine, your students will feel empowered by being part of the exciting process of integrating these disciplines and sharing their findings.

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