While a few early adopters looked to interdisciplinary learning as a unique and comprehensive approach to teaching, many educators stuck to the traditional teaching philosophy with little or no subject area overlap. The trend of interdisciplinary learning is gaining momentum as schools challenge students with problems requiring learning from traditionally disparate subjects.
One of the easiest ways to leverage interdisciplinary skills is to apply the scientific method to subjects other than science. That’s right, the scientific method isn’t just for the science classroom.
Since birth, every child understands the scientific method at its core. Not only that, they’re supreme practitioners of it. Beg to differ? Well, if you understand the basic principles, it’s easy to see that even the smallest of children conduct “scientific experiments” to understand the world around them.
Picture a toddler left unsupervised in her family’s kitchen. What is this? It’s shiny and a strange color! She crawls over to the object. Will it burn me? Maybe. Can I be sure? Let’s try. Nope, but what about this one?
When introduced in school, the scientific method isn’t so much taught as a new concept as it is implemented given common knowledge obtained in the first years of life. A physics professor might, for example, introduce basic laws of matter through class experiments like dropping eggs or flinging rubber bands. Trial and error is therefore refined in the educational process, with all its steps outlined and observed, but it’s still an extension of the rudimentary tools we each used to help us discover our world for the very first time.
As kids get older, the science classes they take have tended to be the most likely to keep the scientific method in constant use through laboratory experiments like the ones described above. But what about other classes? In the K–12 arena you’re not likely to see the scientific method put to its most effective use. It’s often not until college that students begin to conduct their own research, and that research is generally directed towards scholarly works.
But for all intents and purposes, students aren’t “trial-and-error-ing” in the areas where they really need to be doing so. Whether kids end up volunteering, interning, or eventually working at any sort of organization, there are certain practical skills that students can start learning early on to begin realizing the how of making their wildest dreams possible.
This doesn’t mean tracking kids into certain careers, but rather, the opposite. When young people have the confidence to start something, anything, and see it through, it empowers them. Project-based learning has been catching on for these very same reasons, and there’s no better way to entrust kids with responsibility than to have them do something.
But as students get older this method becomes more and more abandoned in classrooms. More than helping kids ask more questions, teachers are made to provide the answers. It has become what it is rather than what could be.
The question must therefore be asked: What if there was a way to reintroduce the scientific method and reverse the tide?
Kavita Singh is the programs manager for culturebooster and Tomorrow Prep. culturebooster is a free and flexible curriculum for middle and high school classrooms, with an integrated crowd-funding platform and backend suite of teacher tools. Students design and lead fund-raising campaigns for their schools or partnered nonprofits.