Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam
Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Blinded By Science

I'd like to preface the following by saying that I like Steven's science teacher and she really likes him and she's a good teacher and he's lucky to be in her class.

But I can't for the very life of me understand what the logic is behind the way the middle school science notebooks are organized.

I have a degree in Chemistry and I worked in a lab doing research for four years after I graduated. I kept careful records and I published papers, so I believe I have at least a rudimentary understanding of what it takes to work as a scientist.

And somehow I managed without ever being required to assemble a notebook like the middle school students in our area have to keep.

Every time they start a new science unit, Steven has to download and print out a packet for the unit at home, this packet usually ranges between 40 and 60 pages and they can't print this at school.

Then they have to glue the pages they printed onto the fronts and backs of the pages in the spiral bound notebook, interspersed with blank pages and other material as I've copied below. The pages have to be (glued?!?) neatly into the notebook, but glue stick doesn't last the whole semester and white glue causes the paper to raise up, contrary to what is required for "neatness".

Next time we'll try that double-sided scrapbook tape.

But let's think about what we're doing here in environmental terms, a concept they are trying to instill in our kids' brains:

  • We purchase a spiral notebook with 100 pages.
  • We fill that notebook with 200 or so single-sided pages we print at home.
  • For each page in the spiral notebook, we glue a printed page to the front and aother to the back.

By my math, that's 300 sheets of paper. The spiral notebook pages are used only as a substrate to glue other pages on to. Multiply that times 1500 students in Steven's school and add in the students from all the other schools in the district.

Maybe it's me who doesn't understand modern education, but I'm patiently waiting for someone to tell me why it wouldn't make more sense for the school to print the pages double-sided and bind them and sell them to the students at a profit. I would have spent $20 without blinking to have avoided this task.

Maybe my old brain doesn't work correctly any more but it seems like we could save trees and make a little money and avoid making everyone crazy with this approach.

One of the particularly hellish things about preparing these notebooks occurs when somehow a page is missed and not discovered until the subsequent pages have been glued in.

There is no way to insert the missing page, so the pages following the missing page have to be ripped out, the ripped-out pages have to be reprinted, then the whole mess has to be re-glued into the notebook, and a prayer is offered up that there will be enough pages left in the notebook to last the rest of the semester.

Middle school has been a big transition for Steven and he's struggling a bit after doing really well for the last two years.

He tested into honors pre-algebra and honors English. He has a very good understanding of the topics being covered, he gets A's and B's on all the tests and on the assignments he gets turned in.

But at the end of every grading period so far, he's had missing assignments, some of them were started and never finished, some were completed and never turned in, and some he was unaware of.

We're working at helping him with organizational strategies.

But stuff like the science notebook makes all of us crazy.

Below are the instructions for the notebook we prepared this weekend exactly as they were printed. I've interspersed my own comments in red, in the belief that if you're going to dish it out, you should be able to take it and any professional educator who sets out such stringent requirements for their students ought not to make stupid errors on the instructions.


Semester 2 New Notebook & Unit F Notebook Directions

Start fresh with a new notebook. IF you don't remember, here are the notebook requirements:

  • 8 ½ x 11 in size
  • plastic front cover
  • at least 100 pages
  • college ruled
  • 5-star works the best (year after year, it always holds longer than any other brand.)

Inside Front Cover: Obtain a new Science Reference Sheet from your teacher (glue)

Science notebook, p. 1

1st page: Semester 2 coverpage. Cover page should include the semester "Semester 2", your first and last name, school year, information about your teacher (name, room #), and two or more illustrations that relate to what we will be studying this semester (evolution, earth's history, human body)

Science notebook, pp. 2-3

2nd page: Detach the blue "How to be Successful" sheet from semester 1 notebook and staple it into your semester 2 notebook.

3rd page: Make a Unit F 'Evolution' Cover page. Cover page should include the Unit title ("Unit F 'Evolution"), your first and last name, and 2 or more colored illustrations that relate to what we will be studying in the unit. (We will all be covering earth's history, fossils, evolution, and endangered species)

4nd (4nd? I know this is Science and not English, but 4nd?) page: Make a table of contents page with the title "Unit F 'Evolution" (1 pg only).

5rd (OK, I might have let 4nd slide, but 5rd? Come on), 6th, and 7th page: Title these three pages: "Unit F Key Concepts".

Science notebook, pp. 8-9

8th page: Title this page "Unit F Index Cards"

8th 8th? Didn't we just title that page "Unit F Index Cards" in the previous step, which would preclude stapling other pages onto it? to end of Unit F: Paste or staple in all of the Unit F Activity sheets in this packet. Make sure that you are stapling them in order as they were printed.

Very important:
  • All edges must fit within the boundary of the notebook (no messy paper hanging out). Put these in neatly the first time so that you do not have to go back later to fix them or trim them.
  • All edges must be glued or stapled down
  • No blank pages from the very beginning of the Unit P (Unit P? Now just where did that come from? I might believe it was a typo, but P and F aren't remotely close to each other on any keyboard I've ever used) to the end of Unit F.
  • Do not rip out any of the pages after Unit F, you will need them all for the Units to come. (Which means we've got to pray we don't miss a page or something and have to redo them)

Vocabulary: Staple the Unit F vocabulary to the back of your notebook. Make sure that you staple it in order with page number 1 on the top!



- Kathleen



Blogger The Greens said...

Hi Kathy,
I found your blog through Rachel Herr's blog. I cried my way through your intro and then cried my way through the comments after it! Many, many blessings to you and your family. I just couldn't resist adding a comment on this blog- as a homeschooler it adds fuel to my fire and I wanted to copy it on my blog for my homeschool friends to see but thought I would refrain from making it a public school vs. homeschooling debate :-)
Take Care,
Kate in Michigan

March 18, 2008 2:10 PM  

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