How I Fell in Love With Science Through Hip-Hop

How I Learned to Love Science Through Hip Hop

It was a calm and crisp day; the morning breeze was cool and pleasant. Signs of fall were approaching steadily. It was my first day of high school at the Marie Curie High School for Medicine, Nursing, and Health Professions, which was located in the Bronx. I always found science fascinating, but was never fully engaged. In the 4th grade, my wings as a scientist grew consistent with the wings of our classroom butterflies, and although my interest in science was evident, my engagement in the classroom was not. On the first day of high school, I walked into my conceptual physics class and met my teacher, Christopher Emdin. I was surprised to have a teacher who looked and talked like me. He even enjoyed Hip-Hop as much as I did. I was immediately engaged in that physics class because Emdin embedded Hip-Hop education in his daily instruction, and it was only the beginning. Using elements of Hip-Hop in the classroom made learning science fun, but more importantly every student, including myself, felt a familiar connection to the science content and leaned into the instruction. This was first time I identified as a scientist. I saw myself in that science classroom. I felt like a scientist.

I recall learning Newton’s third law of motion using the call and response method where Emdin would shout out, “an object in motion” and the class would respond, “stays in motion.” Emdin would then shout out, “and an object at rest…” again the class would respond, “stays at rest.” Emdin mimicked how rappers/MC’s interact with crowds at their shows. After an entire school year of conceptual physics, my confidence and interest in science was at an all time high. I found myself making real world connections and creating analogies, as a Hip Hop artist would, about everything I learned to better understand science content.

During my freshman year, Emdin and I developed a great relationship. He was not only a science teacher, but he served as a big brother and mentor. He genuinely cared about students and would stay after school to talk and offer his advice. I started referring to Emdin as my mentor; he was someone that I looked up to. Emdin was the first man of color that I was exposed to who joined the academy. As a high school student, I had the perception that individuals from low-income communities didn’t become professors and didn’t have platforms to share their knowledge, but watching Emdin do it made me believe it was possible and that I could do it too. When Emdin became an associate professor at Teachers College, Columbia University he brought me to his classes and made sure that I was exposed to graduate student discussions and experienced an Ivy League institution.

A few years later, I attended the State University of New York at Plattsburgh with aspirations of becoming a pharmacist. Choosing to study biochemistry wasn’t the smoothest of routes for a young black man, so when I felt discouraged, Emdin was a phone call away, ready to charge me with motivation and inspire me to not give up and to always remain focused. After my junior year of college, I lost interest in pharmacy and decided that I would study science education in graduate school. I wanted more urban students to have a similar science education experience as myself. Because of this, I feel like I have a moral obligation to give back to students in my community. Had I not met Emdin during my freshman year of high school, I do not believe I would have reached or exceed my potential as a professional and as a young man of urban society. I think about the first day of the fall semester of my freshman year of high school every start of a new school year, and I think of how I walked into a classroom not knowing or understanding how my life would change.

I graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh with honors. I now attend Teachers College, Columbia University, where I study science education as a masters student. Eventually, I plan to pursue my PhD in Science Education with the purpose to study science education in urban areas to develop innovative ways to engage urban youth in science. I plan on engaging my students by practicing Reality Pedagogy and using Hip Hop Education, both as a means to better engage students in the sciences as well as making the classroom feel like a safe environment for the purpose of developing meaningful relationships with students. Currently, I continue to study with Emdin, who convinces me that there is always more to learn and who never fails to teach.

Original post from: The Good Men Project

Photo: Flickr/AmyLoves Yah

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Mayor Bloomberg’s One Best System

Below is an Op-Ed piece written in response to Mayor Bloomberg’s address on education reform.
The mayor of the world’s greatest city, Mayor Bloomberg, has set out to completely overhaul New York City public schools. In his major address on Education at New York Urban League’s Dr. Martin Lither King, Jr. Symposium, Bloomberg presented a plan that he believes will ultimately change the direction of the city’s schools from their current state of failing to succeeding and effectively prepare students for college and the work field. Bloomberg isn’t too pleased with the quality of education that a New York City public school provides its patrons. The quality of the public school education we provide is woefully inadequate, the mayor said. Though Bloomberg has outlined a reform agenda in which he is confident can and will change the quality of today’s public education in the city, Bloomberg’s platform focuses on standardizing all public school curriculum, therefore, measuring student achievement solely on test scores, and increasing parental involvement.

Of course, the mayor’s heart is in the right place, and although he is well intentioned–as many school reformers are–he has no experience as an educator or administrator and thus, doesn’t fully understand urban schools. It seems like Mayor Bloomberg plans to overhaul the school system with the goal of creating “the one best system” in New York City public schools, that is, as David Tyack would elaborately put it.  But as many urban educators and historians know, there is no such thing as a perfect education system, especially when we consider urban, public education because of its complex history.

It is not uncommon to hear that an urban inner-city school is failing. Any employee of an urban or inner city school system knows how challenging it can be to ensure the success of not only students, but also educators and administrators whom in turn generate a successful school system. Ensuring success in New York City public schools simply is not as easy as changing promotion requirements that unfairly ask students to meet a certain standard—as Mayor Bloomberg makes it seem, and it surely doesn’t happen over night. Instead of making a minor reform and observing its progress, Bloomberg decided to make major surface changes to an entire school system, without acknowledging the root of inner city school failure.

The public school, formally known as the common school, was created to educate all people, regardless of race, ethnicity or creed. Horace Mann, commonly known as the father of American Education, strongly pushed for public education for all people. In the mid 19th century, the main goals of public education were to rid the city of vice, develop the country’s younger population into leaders capable of competing with other countries, and more importantly, to educate all people.

Horace Mann imagined Black and White children sitting beside one another in the same classroom being taught lessons that would inspire them to reach for more. Although Horace Mann’s imagination came to fruition, his vision wasn’t fully realized. Unfortunately, due to the history of our great country and its culture to discriminate, marginalize, and enforce its prejudice upon minority groups, Mann’s image of public education appears very different today. Even in its development, inner city public schools were not created equal. American public schools have yet to see full equality, and the students who attend these schools do not necessarily share equal opportunities, either.

The marker of success in New York City Public schools according to Mayor Bloomberg is test scores. In his address on Education he stated, “The specific, testable, and measurable ability to meet these [workplace] requirements must be a condition of student promotion and graduation.” Judging a student and promoting them exclusively on their capability to pass exam is not fair to all students. All students differ in potential—something teachers understand and see firsthand. Students should be exposed to different measures of success, other than exams. History has shown that when more focus is placed on students passing standardized exams, the less focus is placed on the actual student. Students begin to fall through the cracks and those who are not able to express the content learned in class become unengaged and are not promoted. With this concentration on meeting a standard, the city will see an increase in the number of students placed into remedial and special education classes. By increasing focus on standardized exams and curriculum, teachers are forced to teach specifically for these tests. The teacher’s classroom expectations now include ensuring their student pass state set exams. Doing so is a deprivation of the opportunity to teach to the needs of each student.

For instance, in the 1920’s school reformers in Chicago also implemented standardized exams for their students as a way to prevent failure. Many educators then started to view standardized exams as one of the only determinants of school performance. Educators also noticed that standardized exams placed immigrants and non-English speaking students at a disadvantage, as they had trouble comprehending and adapting to the exams.  In Chicago, homogenous grouping occurred—all of the “smart” students were places in classes with one another and all of the “dull” students were placed into classes together. This caused principals to reward their favorite teachers with “bright” students and punish other teachers with “dull ones. By making standardized exams a key marker of student success will not improve schools. They will intellectually segregate schools.

At the same time, teachers will be forced to use a standardized curriculum to ensure success on standardized exams, leaving no room to teach and adhere to different students’ needs. Mayor Bloomberg, standardized exams cannot be the main determinate of promoting of our students. History itself has shown us the negative consequences these unjust standards have. In David Tyack’s The One Best System: A History of American Urban Education, he illustrates that history has shown tailoring instruction to a child results in more sympathetic and effective teaching and much higher rates of promotion. There cannot be any standardized way of teaching our students, because every student is different. Rather, schools may be more successful if teachers were fully able to be creative and ultimately cater to their students’ individual needs.

Mayor Bloomberg has proposed standardized exams to measure the performance of students in New York City public schools, creating a standardized curriculum to ensure students’ success. Mayor Bloomberg argues that students who move around the city struggle, for the main reason that they have to adjust to a different curriculum and a different way of teaching.

Reflecting on Mayor Bloomberg’s idea of standardizing curriculum for all of New York City public school reminds me of the Lancasterian system, which was implemented in major cities in the country, including New York City, during the early 19th century. Joseph Lancaster, a British public school reformer, developed Lancasterianism. His system was dedicated to restructuring public school management and was designed to make schools more economical by suggesting one teacher support hundreds of students. In this case, all of the students had to learn at the same rate. What the system actually did was not allow the teacher to apply different methods to different types of students. Grouping every student together as one, disregarded individuality and creativity for both the teacher and the students. The Lancaster system did not consider students who needed to be engaged in another matter. Lancaster wrote the key to a system is “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” Though, Lancaster had a very organizational and economical method, it did not have and still does not have a “place” in New York public schools, or any public school for that matter.

The Lancaster system, like all standardized systems, excludes “otherness” and allows no room for freedom or creativity in the classroom. With a standardized New York City curriculum, Bloomberg will be clumping all of the city’s students together and taking away a teacher’s ability to cater to students’ differences and needs—two huge mistakes. Standardizing the curriculum will also limit the flexibility of teachers in the classroom.

Bloomberg declares that in order for students to succeed, parents need to be more involved. So how do we get parents involved in the schools and more involved in their children’s education? One suggestion is taking a step back to analyze why aren’t parents involved in the schools to begin with. In her book, Schools Betrayed: Roots of Failure in Inner-City Education, Kathyrn Neckerman states that parents may not be involved with their children’s schools simply because they do not trust them. In Chicago, parents did not trust the school system because they didn’t think that the schools were fair to their children in regards to discipline and quality of education. During the civil rights era many Blacks didn’t receive the equal access to education that they were promised by their constitutional rights promised. These were families who had gone to public schools during that era and who are emotionally scared. Even in a more contemporary situation, the New York public school system has shown its flaws, and it’s possible that many today parents have had bad experiences while attend public school.

It may be obvious to many New Yorkers that our schools aren’t perfect, and we understand that things need to improve. Making major changes to the school system in search for a perfect system will not happen over night and without resistance from communities. If Bloomberg is going to make changes in the school system, he should make them with the assistance of an educator who will know and understand the history of urban education and the distinctive needs of students and teachers. I hope Mayor Bloomberg comes to the understanding that a truly sound education system would encourage each student make the most of their unique potential.

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Suzy Lee Weiss and her White Privilege

Suzy Lee Weiss is another White woman who doesn’t understand her White privilege. Though her article, featured in the Wall Street Journal, was well written, it was also very distasteful. Weiss is upset that she wasn’t accepted to any of the Ivy League institutions that she applied to, after having a high GPA, high SAT scores and extracurricular activities. Regarding ways to be considered diverse by colleges, Weiss writes, “had I known two years ago what I know now, I would have gladly worn a headdress to school. Show me to any closet, and I would’ve happily come out of it.” She automatically discredits anyone who has worn a headdress because of religious affiliation and who “come out” as homosexual, and worst of all she suggests that they’ve done these things for a leg up in college admissions. More sickening, on the Today Show, Weiss says, “diversity is a wonderful thing.” If she actually had an appreciation for diversity she wouldn’t have marginalized already marginalized and “different” groups and claim that she’s satirical. Weiss clearly doesn’t have respect for others’ differences.

Weiss states, “In this day and age, we’re being judged by things we can’t control…” implying that she had a rough life and one that she cannot control. Suzy Lee Weiss appears to be in a better position financially and academically, that is, compared to the majority of high school students in the country. What she fails to see, is that she is indeed in this better position because of “things that she couldn’t control.” Weiss couldn’t control what family she was born into, but she was born into privilege that she carries around every day and worse, without notice. She’s selfish because she’s not satisfied with her privilege, and she’s not grateful for the things that she does have. Rather, she is complaining about the little that she doesn’t.

As an educator, I can’t help but question how many teachers there are who don’t understand their (White) privilege, and who don’t respect or understand the differences of their students. I’m worried, especially, as an urban educator, that some of these teachers are teaching our urban students and are, too, exercising their White privilege, because frankly, one who does not step outside of their privileges cannot help others understand uncontrollable disadvantages of others. For example, White teachers who refuse to be innovative and do not use multicultural education to teach urban students are deemed ineffective and are not accepting or understanding of the differences of their students and in turn exercise their White privilege and dominance as teachers. I don’t blame Suzy Lee Weiss or White teachers for not understanding their White privilege, but I believe that it is their duty to try. to understand the differences of others, especially if they will be interacting with people who are different from them, which they most likely will.

Ultimately, Suzy Lee Weiss wins the battle because she was privileged enough to have a sister who was formerly employed at the Wall Street Journal. That connection—we can even go as far as saying, privilege—was the key factor in getting her op-ed piece published, not her GPA, not her SAT scores, not her extracurricular activities, not her talents. Weiss received the publicity that she wanted and at the same time, it seems like, she was recently accepted to colleges that once rejected her. The old cliché rings true—any publicity is good publicity. I just hope that one day Suzy Lee Weiss comes to the realization that there are other people out in this world who legitimately have different experiences than her, and that she doesn’t deserve or automatically earn everything that she wants simply because she’s privileged.

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A Ghanaian American Student College Experience By Fibbie Addo

A Ghanaian American Student College Experience

The confident, ambitious, and intelligent man came to SUNY Plattsburgh in the fall of 2008. As a freshman, the transition from high school to college was hard for him, but with the help of his friends and by getting involved in school, he decided to remain in Plattsburgh.

Edmund Adjapong chose SUNY Plattsburgh because of its different environment and cheaper tuition fee. Apart from these factors, what attracted him most became apparent before his freshmen orientation; there is an on-going program called the Multicultural Students Visiting Program (MSVP), that got his attention. He began his studies at SUNY Plattsburgh that fall.

As every student who tries to find himself or herself and experience everything college life has to offer, Edmund, a biochemistry major and a minor in Africana Studies, accomplished this first by getting involved in school. Edmund has been a great help to the campus. He served as a senator for the Student Association (Ex-officio for Diversity), and a eventually became a senior Student Ambassador. He is presently a Resident Assistant and a tutor for Chemistry. He has also been recognized as a member of Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honors Society, and a member of Delta Mu Iota Tutoring Honor Society.  Edmund, who almost transferred to another college, said the kind group of friends he chose and being involved made him stay in Plattsburgh.

In 2011, Edmund ran for Student Association president. Unfortunately, he did not succeed in becoming the SA president. He said he learned a lot from this experience, and one thing he learned was that, “You do not get everything you want in life, but you should not settle.”

Edmund, who is one of the few African student leaders on this campus, says it is different, but it is not impossible, and he doesn’t give attention to differences. He describes his leadership skills as being a leader and a follower. He says, as a leader you should also be a follower to get to learn from other people.

In his free time, Edmund likes to do research, and continues to get involved. His favorite sport is basketball and he loves hip-hop. He is a writer, too, and does it for fun. He describes himself as a leader, an educator, and a mentor.

He is currently working on a project to determine the migration routes of ancient Mayans by extracting and analyzing ancient DNA from Mayan skeletons. His goals are to do his Masters in Science Education at Columbia University. He also wants to get his PhD in Science Education and be a professor at a top-tier university.

Mark Sanders, a friend of Edmund describes him as a strong individual. He is someone who sets goals for himself and achieves them. He is friendly, supportive, and loyal.

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Sigma Xi Eastern Regional Conference

Headed to NYC tomorrow to present my research poster at the Sigma Xi Eastern Regional Conference. If you’re interested in my research email me @

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Scientific Literacy


When it comes to math and science graduates, the United States is far behind many advanced democracies, ranking 24th in the world (Linn, 2012). As one of the most powerful countries in the world, the United States lags too far behind when it comes to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) field. Compared to other countries, the United States is far behind in the scientific field. One reason is the lack of focus in science education. More importantly, however, it is the poor teaching methods of educators who do not concentrate on the importance of scientific literacy. Scientific literacy is defined as the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making (National Science Education Standards, 1996). It is imperative that all students, especially students who major in the sciences, understand scientific literacy and its importance in everyday life. Science educators should encourage their students to strengthen their interests in language, reading and the art of writing. 

Scientific Literacy

            When the average individual thinks about scientific literacy, they think about scientific literature and being informed about new advances in the science world. Those thoughts do draw a parallel with the idea of scientific literacy, but there is a lot more to consider. This century, scientific knowledge and new discoveries have and continue to occur rapidly.  In this new century, science literacy is the occupational capacity to apply information in an appropriate contest, to analyze information, to synthesize information from various sources or on various topics, and evaluate information to determine the best course of action (Science Education and Society, 2008). Being scientifically literate means that we understand the nature of science, the nature of our minds, body and environment. Scientific literacy is more about knowing how to read scientific articles. It is also your ability to critically think and interpret scientific information. 

Achieving an understanding of scientific literacy requires more than teaching and learning science as a body of knowledge (Bell, Maeng & Peters, 2010). It requires a broad understanding of the nature of science and scientific inquiry; these concepts and ideas are the backbone and building blocks that need to be understood before trying to understand scientific literacy.

Scientific Inquiry in my Classroom

As a science educator, I think that it is essential that scientific literacy be taught in every science classroom. This is not something that should be stressed or taught to students in a single lesson plan, but that should be incorporated in every lesson plan and every aspect of the science classroom. The idea of scientific literacy should be engaging to students and presented in a manner as such. One way to make scientific literacy engaging is by helping students become part of society’s science conversations by using real-world applications of science in instruction and by inviting students to discuss and debate relevant and motivating content (Grant & Lapp, 2011).

In my science classroom, I will encourage my students to read science articles or stories that they find interesting and summarize them. Having students read these articles allows students to gain knowledge somewhere different than a textbook, but it also allows students to be comfortable with reading and digesting scholarly scientific articles. Many students may not feel comfortable or confident when reading such articles because they are intimidated, but practice makes perfect. I will also have students writing a daily journal where they express themselves and feelings about the class. This will give the instructor feedback as well as allow students more practice with writing. Another way to incorporate scientific literacy in the science classroom is by assigning students more reading and writing assessments. The more students write about science the more they will think critically. As a science educator, I believe that it is important to include writing assignments in the science classroom. Students should develop skills that allow them to make connections with the sciences to their everyday life. My students will be taught to read like scientists, question things that they are reading and think about different possibilities. As students engage in reading more scientific articles, they will also gain a deep understanding of related vocabulary.

As an educator, I plan to always challenge my students and set the bar high. If educators have high expectations for their students, the students will meet them if they are excited enough and being engaged in the classroom. Students should always be pushed and educators should always be their support system. Educators should mention to students that it is alright to not know an answer, but students should seek the answer to all questions.

Students and Scientific Inquiry

            Students understanding of scientific literacy should be a major goal to all science educators; it is such an essential part of the science education experience. How will educators know that their students understand scientific literacy and its applications? One way to test students understanding of scientific literacy and its applications is having essay questions on unit exams that allow students to include vocabulary, understanding of different concepts and connect the material to real life situations. Oftentimes, it more important for students to make connections with the material that they are learning rather than just memorizing it and discarding it after the course it over. Educators can always include the understanding of scientific literacy on rubrics so students know that this is something they should wrap their heads around and work towards understanding. Group discussions also work well because they allow students to gain an understanding of other students’ thought processes.


It’s fundamental for students to understand scientific literacy and its applications. As students develop a better understanding of scientific literacy they will think more analytically, process information differently. Like any subject matter or topic, scientific literacy can be taught in many different ways. It should be taught consistently and in an engaging manner. Educators should allow students to have fun while learning and allow them to engage other students.








Work Cited

Bell, R., Maeng, J., & Peters, E. (2010, May 11). Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition

Scientific Inquiry and the Nature of Science Task Force Report. Retrieved from


Grant , M., & Lapp, D. (2011). Teaching Science Literacy. Educational Leadership68(6), Retrieved from


Linn, A. (2012, February 10). US Workers Behind in Science and Math. Retrieved from


National Science Education Standards. (1996). Retrieved from


Science Education and Society. (2008, May 14). Retrieved from


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Scientific Inquiry


Every person is a scientist, whether they know it or not. Science is the study of the natural world.  As humans, we all experiment. Our experiments include cooking, trying to find the right partner and even trying to find the right studying habits. Nonetheless, we are all scientists. One important and fundamental aspect of science is inquiry. Inquiry is an important aspect of science and is essential to the continuation of scientific discovery. Scientific inquiry allows students to think and process scientific information differently and helps develop scientific literacy. While inquiry based learning can be applied in all classrooms, it should be practiced specifically in every science classroom. Like many things, scientific inquiry can be taught in many different ways, but the most effective way would be an interactive and engaging way.

Scientific Inquiry

Science, by many, is perceived as difficult and sometimes impossible. Individuals perceive science as such because of the type of instruction that they received in school, or lack of such. Many times students aren’t taught the nature of science or scientific inquiry, so they struggle when trying to understand and grasp scientific information. Above all, they are not taught how to think like a scientist. Scientific inquiry refers to the ways in which scientists study in the natural world and propose explanations based on evidence derived from their work. Inquiry also refers to the activities of students in which they develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, as well as an understanding of how scientists study the natural world (NRC, 2002). Students in all science classrooms should be engaged in scientific inquiry because it provides them the opportunity to practice important science processing skills as well as critical thinking and problem solving skills (Bell, Maeng & Peters, 2010).

There is a systematic approach to using scientific inquiry called the scientific method. The scientific method includes six steps: making an observation, asking questions, formulating a hypothesis, designing and carrying out an experiment, analyzing results, and arriving at a conclusion and communicating your results (SCENE, 2004). These steps act as a framework for students’ thought processes and allow them to think analytically and investigate further.

Scientific Inquiry in my Classroom

As a science educator, I think that it is imperative that scientific inquiry be taught in every science classroom. This is not something that should be taught to students in a single lesson plan, but that should be incorporated in every lesson plan and every aspect of the science classroom. Scientific inquiry should be fun and engaging and at times should be hands on. Far too often educators associate inquiry instruction with hands on activity, however, it doesn’t always have to be. Students can analyze data that has already been created and communicate the results (Bell, Maeng & Peters, 2010).

In my science classroom, I will allow my students the opportunity to create their own experiments, with very few limitations. This gives students the opportunity to be creative and question many different things. Students will be given a few weeks to perform their experiment, but will have to check in with the teacher and submit a hypothesis and questions throughout the experiment. Students will also have to keep a lab notebook that documents all observations. Then students will present their analyzed data to the entire class. I will also allow students to communicate with each other about their experiments, so they can get ideas and questions from different perspectives. To implement scientific inquiry on a daily basis in my classroom, I would have a question at least twice a week for the students that allow them to use one of the six steps of scientific method. Scientific inquiry in my classroom will be both hands on and non-hands on.

Students and Scientific Inquiry

            Some science educators many not believe in implementing scientific inquiry in their classrooms because they don’t believe change is necessary. But it is very important for science educators to implement inquiry-based learning and to make sure that their students understand and excel in the six steps of scientific method. One way to know that my students have acquired an understanding of inquiry is by splitting them up into groups and giving them different scientific experiment data. Each group will have to analyze the data and communicate their findings to the class. Another way of knowing that my students understand inquiry is to give them a scientific experiment scenario with only five of the six steps of the scientific method and having the students come up with answers for the missing step. For example, students can be given a journal from Charles Darwin’s trip to the Galapagos Islands with observations, design, results, a hypothesis and a conclusion, but students will have to come up with questions that Darwin may have or could have asked throughout his experiment. Another way of knowing that my students understand inquiry is by testing them. For example, I can generate a test that tests students on the definition of inquiry in a fun way like a cross word puzzle. Students are still being tested, but in an engaging and interactive manner.


It’s fundamental for students to learn and understand scientific inquiry and the six steps of scientific method. These steps allow students to think analytically, process information differently and develop scientific literacy. Like any subject matter or topic, scientific literacy can be taught in many different ways. It should be taught in an engaging and interactive manner, but doesn’t necessarily have to be done as such. Educators should allow students to have fun while learning and allow them to engage other students.

Work Cited

Bell, R., Maeng, J., & Peters, E. (2010, May 11). Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition

Scientific Inquiry and the Nature of Science Task Force Report. Retrieved from


National Research Council. (2002). Inquiry and the national science education standards: A guide for teaching and learning. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press


Southwest Center for Education and the Natural Environment. (2004). Scientific Method. Retrieved from

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