Teaching with current events

In this month’s Leaders Letter, the topic for the building content area focused on the recent record setting sky (or should we say space) jump conducted by Felix Baumgartner. The undertaking was sponsored by Red Bull Stratos which has a history of sponsoring extreme sports.  For more information on their Mission to the Edge of Space visit their webpage which provides information associated with the science, technology, team and other mission aspects.

I’m not sure about you, but on that particular Sunday afternoon, I sat in my living room totally mesmerized by the live coverage of this event (Okay I confess—I would LOVE to do something like that someday—whether my mother calls me crazy or not!!!!) and totally plugged in to the social media outlet as myself and other friends from across the country interacted asynchronously through outlets such as Twitter and Facebook.  This was not the first time that social media provided updates and information from colleagues across the country on a current event. 

Most recently it was the final trip of the Space Shuttle from Florida to California. Flybys over the flight path were expected and it was like watching the entire event through the eyes of my friends as they posted pictures from Florida, Texas, Arizona and California. I could not have had a better seat for viewing either of the current and momentous events unless I was there in person.

Current events such as the brewing of Hurricane Sandy at the moment and the impending “Frankenstorm” as it has been labeled are ways to engage students in science topics.  We as science educators have a great opportunity to engage and interest students in their real world thanks largely to the real world!! Recent years current events that I can think of include the freak snowstorm last October (with many NSTA members stuck in Hartford for a few extra days); the Earthquake that rocked the east coast in August 2011; the Tsunami that hit the west coast during the San Francisco conference in March 2011 and was a result of the great Japan earthquake that caused massive amounts of damage and in particular concern over the nuclear plants. Furthermore, the use of social media to share information allows us to have massive amounts of information (some accurate and some inaccurate) available about a particular topic almost immediately.

The opportunity to engage students with current events and keep them connected through social media is ever ready and available. To continue this conversation, it would be great to hear what others have chosen as current events to teach science and what the focus of the lesson was as well as how social media played a role in sharing this information.

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  1. Bev DeVore-Wedding
    Posted October 28, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    I use current events regularly in my math and science classes. This fall alone, Felix Baumgartner’s jump coincided with talking about atmosphere, air pressure, just began talking about “The Storm of the Century” and here comes “Frankenstorm”–it makes me look like a Master Teacher but truthfully I am just taking advantage of the real world!
    Assigning students to look up real-world events also connects them to the world and science/math, gives them ownership and gives me insight into their interests.
    Great resources!

  2. lynn Young
    Posted October 28, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    re Free fall from space:I don’t know if this is what you are looking for: I’d ask why in re-entry free fall His suit didn’t burn up @ that speed, How his inner ear/brain must have reacted to the uncontroled spin and explain what must have happened physiologially, why he waited until he did to PULL his parachute and what would have happened if he had pulled it earlier. ( all these questions should be ones you could propose to grades 6-higher and get a decent answer in a class discussion preset with a PAIR SHARE session and Journal writing AFTER A FILM CLIP OF THE FALL WAS SHOWN) also students could write a short story on how this might be the beginning of: new physiological testing to see how the brain compensates, the begining of a new kind of landing protocall, how this might influence private sector businesses in space and how money could be made by those businesses…. The topics are endless and the students MIGHT EVEN SURPRISE you with their deep questions. I have always felt that STUDENTS should drive the discussion/curriculum ( within the guidelines of topics and concepts that MUST BE COVERED) and that means that teachers should feel comfortable being good guides and learning along side their students.

  3. Posted November 3, 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Bev DeVore Wedding and Lynn Young –thanks for sharing your ideas. You both raise a great point that it assists in the teaching process, but the teaching process still needs to be there to assist students in maximizing their learning from the particular event and/or experience.

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