Home as A Place of Discovery
Homes are special places of discovery, abound with scientific phenomenon and engineering marvels. They are also places where student sensemaking and problem-finding are king; and intergenerational learning of science—where all generations can learn together (Lawson et al, 2019)—is common. A home is a place where anyone with a question can be a scientist.
- Mom, who invented the internet and how does it work?
- Dad, what is a “smart home”?
- Aunt Aliya, where did the water go after the rain stopped?
- Uncle Bo, when does the sun rise in the winter?
- Nana, why do clothes dry when you hang them outside?
- Jackie, how does the elevator in our apartment know where to stop?
Learning at Home During COVID-19
COVID-19 has put renewed focus on the importance of learning from home. When the 2020-2021 school year started, 39 of the nation’s 50 largest school systems—affecting more than 6.1 million students—were among those that chose a distance learning instructional model (Education Week, 2020). Some chose a hybrid model that combined remote learning—where students learn at home—and in-class learning in various forms (SSEC, 2020).
When schools first closed in March 2020 due to COVID-19, most education organizations around the globe, including the Smithsonian Institution, supported distance learning by providing comprehensive links to learning resources for educators, students, and caregivers across all disciplines and domains. The Smithsonian’s Learning Lab and its Distance Learning page are good examples.
For science learning in particular, the Smithsonian Science Education Center, National Museum of Natural History, National Air and Space Museum, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and other Smithsonian organizations provided free resources for caregivers, students, and teachers. Some of these educational games, simulations, videos, eBooks, and hands-on virtual lessons align with K-12 science standards that guide school-based science learning at home. Some resources require mobile technology. Others can be printed out and used in low-tech environments. This multi-modal approach is designed to support learning across the digital divide (Chandra, 2020).
Three-Dimensional (3-D) Science Learning at Home
The key to successful high-quality science learning at home for young students is the ability for schools to transfer school-based K-12 standards-driven science curriculum from teachers who are trained in three-dimensional learning, to students learning at home. Three-dimensional (3-D) learning is a term in K-12 science education that emerged in the past decade (NRC, 2012). It means that we no longer just teach about disciplinary core ideas—such as geology and other building blocks of science education; we also teach how to do science and engineering—the practices; and, we focus on concepts that cut across disciplines—like cause and effect and patterns. While science learning at home does not have to duplicate science learning at school exactly (CSSS, 2020), science learning at home should include these three dimensions of knowing, doing, and connecting.
A young boy participates in virtual science education. Portishead/E+Getty Images Plus