Teaching science when you don’t know diddly-squat

New “Teaching Science When You Don’t Know Diddly-Squat” lessons will engage youth in science while letting them discover the answers for themselves.

Preparing youth to succeed in science is just one reason Michigan State University Extension has developed the Teaching Science When You Don’t Know Diddly-Squat lessons. Have you ever had a “lightbulb moment” when you suddenly understand something you previously did not? How does that feel? You feel accomplished. The goal of teaching science is not to impart your knowledge to others, but to let them discover it for themselves.

Youth of all ages are naturally curious and interested in exploring their world. Think back to a conversation with a young child and you’ll quickly recognize that curiosity. Youth are full of questions, like why do cows have tails? Why is a hammer shaped like a hammer? Do moms really have eyes in the back of their heads? Why does poop splash? These are just a few of the questions explored through the Teaching Science When You Don’t Know Diddly-Squat lessons.

The reason the lessons are called “Teaching Science When You Don’t Know Diddly-Squat” is to emphasis that you do not need to be an expert to teach science. The misconception that science must be done by someone in a lab coat is not true. Science is all around us, and these lessons are designed to be taught by people without any expertise. (If you have some expertise, that is OK, but it isn’t required to teach the lessons.)

Each diddly-squat lesson:

  • Connects what youth are doing with specific Science and Engineering Practices supporting formal education. (The Science and Engineering Practices are part of Michigan’s Science Standards.)
  • Is filled with questions to help engage youth in rich dialogues that provide time for youth to reflect, articulate and own their discoveries.
  • Uses common items found around your home.
  • Can take as little as 20 minutes or multiple days, depending on the interest and questions youth have.

This series includes an introduction that shares what science is not, some guidelines with an example conversation, some age-level characteristics and the full list of Science and Engineering Practices. The diddly-squat series is full of ready-to-go lesson plans to start engaging youth in inquiry-based science. These activities encourage young people to try to figure things out for themselves rather than just read an answer on the internet or in a book.

As a leader, encourage youth to engage in arguments based on evidence and try not to express your opinion. Remember the focus is not to find “the right answer,” but to engage youth in the process of science.

MSU Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success. To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Building Science Literacy and Future STEM Professionals.”

For more ways to share science with youth in your life, please explore the MSU Extension Science and Engineering webpage. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office. To learn more about 4-H and Extension opportunities in Alcona County, stop by our Harrisville office at 320 S. US-23 or visit our Alcona County MSU Extension Facebook page.

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