Because science is often written about for a skilled adult audience that is well-versed with a particular scientific subject, it can be challenging to make scientific literature accessible to our undergraduates. Often, it seems that doing so will mean hours of scouring the literature, more hard work to boil down complex points, and, despite an already tight class schedule, a considerable amount of dedicated class time. But that doesn’t have to be the case!
Conversations in Science at Indiana University (ScIU) is a science blog led by enthusiastic scientists and writers from an array of backgrounds. Their mission is to present scientific facts, concepts, and current events in a way that is approachable, interesting, and—dare we say it—fun!
The ScIU blog is written, edited, designed, managed, and implemented by scientists—specifically, IU graduate students. Unlike many other science bloggers, they carefully peer-edit everything they publish. That means that their posts are accurate and truthful—no fake news here!
Their fun approach to educational topics could be a powerful resource for you and your students. They have consulted with educators on the specifics of the core standards used in Indiana schools, and outlined classroom activities for six different topics, including literature review, science communication, the scientific method, and careers in science.
A favorite classroom activity provides students with a list of blogs posts to choose from—in each post, students read about a scientific process or set of experiments. Then, they boil down the information: What research questions does the writer ask? What steps did they take to answer their question(s)? What questions remain? How could those questions be answered? When completing any of the lesson plans, students are encouraged to contact the ScIU bloggers directly and get answers from real, live scientists! All of the information your students need will be right at their fingertips, making your life a little easier.
If you’re interested in learning more about ScIU, there is a dedicated webpage of resources for educators. The page is updated regularly with more resources and will soon cover classroom activities for Secondary Core Standards. If you would like to talk about how you can incorporate ScIU into your classroom, please contact the editors at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you use one of the ScIU lesson plans, please let them know how it goes! Please help spread the word about ScIU and goals for classroom engagement. They want to reach as many instructors and students as possible, and will use your feedback to improve what they do. Contact the CITL and our Writing Program for assistance with assignment design and active learning strategies in the science classroom.
Thanks to Briana Whitaker and Rachel Skipper for writing this article in cooperation with Katie Kearns.