How to build student connections in the science classroom

Scientists need to connect to the observable world—and to one another—to do their jobs. Students can do the same as they learn and cooperate. Here are four ways to support them.

By Amplify Staff | November 7, 2022

You know the stereotype: scientists as loners in their labs, only their beakers and goggles for company. But you don’t need us to tell you that this image isn’t scientifically accurate.

Scientists require interaction and teamwork to do their jobs, so it’s important to build that kind of culture with every student in the science classroom. How?

In this recent episode of Science Connections: The Podcast (one of our many education podcasts), host Eric Cross takes up this topic with Indiana’s 2022 Teacher of the Year, Sharita Ware. Together, they come up with four ways to foster a collaborative, imaginative culture in the classroom that helps students not just learn science, but love science.

1. Create a safe, equitable space.

Students connect best to each other, and to learning, when they feel comfortable themselves.

“I create an environment of safety and I don’t play favorites. I don’t care what your backstory is. I don’t care how many times I see you in the hallway. When you hit my room, I treat you the same way I treat everybody else,” says Ware.

“Just because you’re not the loudest person in the room doesn’t mean that you don’t have something to say,” she adds, recalling her own experience as the quiet kid in the back of the class. “I try to make them all feel that what they have to contribute is good, is enough.”

2. Connect to humans in the real world.

Cross describes volunteering for a service that supports visually impaired people who FaceTime when they need assistance. If he got a call during his coding class, he’d answer it and share the experience—creating an opportunity to talk about new ways that tech connects and helps people every day.

“The human part of it brings so many more students into engagement,” he says. When kids connect science to real-world problems and real-world people, that atmosphere of relevance may help them relate more deeply to the science and to each other—and to you!

3. Integrate other disciplines.

Ware envisions creating project-based learning lesson plans that could span a whole year, or even a whole school. For instance: a campaign to build a new park could include not just scientific feasibility studies for location and construction, but also letters to town officials (persuasive writing) and landscape design.

Even a similar short-term project in one science classroom could do the job of playing to different students’ strengths and interests, making each feel included in different ways as they work toward a shared goal.

4. Supporting the development of interpersonal skills.

Collaborative work requires students to communicate with each other. “When they’re focused on a project, they’re able to dive deep into how to express themselves and communicate with real people,” says Cross. Ware calls those skills ”the interpersonal skills of being able to sell my idea and present myself.”

Teachers can not only create collaborative projects that require communication skills, but also actively support students in developing those skills while engaging in those projects.

In these ways, building a collaborative culture in the classroom is also a way of modeling for students the collaborative culture of science itself.

Amplify Science helps foster just this kind of collaborative culture in the classroom. It blends hands-on investigations, literacy-rich activities, and interactive digital tools to empower students to think, read, write, and argue like real scientists and engineers.

Listen to the whole podcast episode here and subscribe to Science Connections: The Podcast here.

About Amplify’s Science Connections: The Podcast

Science is changing before our eyes, now more than ever. So how do we help kids figure that out? How are we preparing students to be the next generation of 21st-century scientists?

Join host Eric Cross as he sits down with educators, scientists, and knowledge experts to discuss how we can best support students in science classrooms. Listen to hear how you can inspire kids across the country to love learning science, and bring that magic into your classroom for your students.


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