I have been teaching since 1972 and I have taught science to 3rd grade through college, so I have discovered, designed, and learned many different ways to present a new topic to the students. New and updated ideas are what it takes to keep the students interested. Kids today are used to being entertained. They can sit in front of a game controller for 6 hours and play a game. What do we offer that will hold their interest?
If I am to offer you only one piece of advice, I would say, to stay relevant and interesting in today’s world, tell the story. As a physics professor, I went to a conference in Boston one year. I took my wife with me so we could also have a little vacation while there. Boston is a great historical town. We had a wonderful time walking the Freedom Trail.
While there I talked my wife into joining me to here a session on string theory. She agreed to go for me, but I knew she didn’t really want to go. When it was over, she was excited. She didn’t think, as an art teacher, that anything about modern physics could keep her interested for 90 minutes, but it had. The speaker accomplished that feat by talking about a modern topic by telling the story. He began with Newton and proceeded all the way through today and the latest thoughts on string theory. He made it interesting by giving it context. He told the story.
In the first class of every new semester, I start the story for the students with Erostothenes, who in 235 BC calculated the radius of the earth. We stand today on the shoulders of thousands of years of brilliant people who got us to today with black holes, dark matter, string theory, quantum physics, quarks, and all the rest.
So teachers, with every new topic you teach, tell the story. Give it context in the students’ real world. Then teach it and show how it is relevant in their word. I know, easier said than done. But something to work on if you are to compete with the graphics of all the new video games.
I’ll give you an example. I always thought that teaching geography was a difficult subject to teach. It seemed dry and boring to me until I thought about teaching it through major historical events. Teach world geography, culture, language, and food through major world events. Kids love things that are demonstrative, so teach through volcanoes, tsunamis, nuclear explosions, wars, the invention of the wheel, the beginning of timekeeping, the invention of the printing press, the discovery of fire, etc. You get the idea.