Learning Real Science: Student Notebooks for Book 5 and Up


Some of you have noticed that our study notebooks for books 5 and up are different than the study notebooks for books 1-4. The study notebooks for books 1-4 are full color with activities such as fill-in-the-blank, simple question and answer, and mini-experiments. These study notebooks reinforce the information presented in the student texts and laboratory workbooks and are simply a way for students to review the content they are learning.

The study notebooks for books 5 and up are completely different. They are black and white with very little content. The questions proposed are abstract and open-ended. The student is left struggling, at times, to figure out how to proceed. There is, in fact, very little guidance on what to write down. In the opening pages, the student is instructed to mark out any question they don’t like and write their own.

So why are they so different?

It all goes back to how to teach a student, any student, real science. What is real science? And how can I (Dr. Keller and author of these books) deliver a product that will not only give students the nuts and bolts of real science (the facts), but also develop the passion, curiosity, and tenacity to really learn science?  With these questions in mind, I created a different kind of study notebook for older students.

Although learning the facts (how an atom forms a molecule, what moves a ball forward, what kinds of minerals are found in granite etc.), is important for understanding science, real science is much more than uploading a database of information into a student’s long-term memory. Learning real science is mostly about playing with ideas, tinkering with experiments, and exploring questions that are interesting to the student. I added emphasis to the last part of that sentence because, truthfully, if a student is not interested in a subject they won’t really learn it.

Learning occurs when students are pushed slightly past their comfort zone, into an area of unfamiliarity and discomfort. Students who reach book 5 in the series have been filling in the blanks and answering questions for 4 years with the study notebooks. They are familiar and comfortable with the format but they haven’t yet been challenged to think for themselves. Nor have they been given the freedom to explore what truly interests them. Starting in Book 5, students are given the opportunity to take all that they have learned and play, tinker, explore, question and discover.

The student notebooks starting in Book 5 are not for teachers or parents to grade or review. In fact, I’d highly recommend that parents and teachers hand the notebooks to the students and never look at them again. These notebooks are for students to write down what ignites them, what they are curious about, and to replace with their own questions what they have no interest in exploring.

If you are not comfortable having your students struggle, occasionally complain about being bored, or feeling frustrated, please do not order the study notebooks for Book 5 and up.  However, if you want your student to learn to push past the initial discomfort that occurs with learning anything new and discover real science in a way that will last them a lifetime and if you can support your student without doing all their work for them then the study notebooks for Books 5 and up are perfect and will help develop a student’s passion, curiosity, and tenacity.