Science Education Gives Students Reasons to Think

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Cudworth

With the recent flaps over state curriculums for scientific education in public schools, I wanted to get a sample of how science issues are handled at some Tri-Cities institutions.

I spoke with a few local science instructors, starting with St. Charles High School biology teacher Ron Ratner, who put the issue of teaching science in a different focus and flavor than the rancorous public discourse tending toward a black-and-white treatment of issues such as science vs. faith.

"I think of science as teaching kids to be curious," Ratner explains. "Curiosity leads to investigation. You can't formulate ideas - or understand what science is about - without it."

Batavia biology teacher David DePrez stresses the importance of understanding key scientific concepts in order to teach science methodology. "There are really very few actual laws in science," he explains. "Things like the conservation of mass and energy tend to be irrefutable, but a great number of scientific theories are established through hundreds of years of testing. That's how we arrive at principles taught in science classes, through peer review. You scrutinize, and if ideas can't be supported, they are removed. So the nature of something becoming a theory makes it a legitimate science. A good scientific perspective is actually very humble."

DePrez has an education that includes a B.A. in religious studies, a background suitable for his first 10 years of teaching at a Catholic college prep school. He particularly likes the elegance of certain kinds of scientific theory, such as earth and space science, plate tectonics, continental drift, and yes - micro and macro evolution. "The science that led to these theories has been absolutely epiphanal," he states. "I love how things like continental drift go hand in hand with the notion of change over time, evolution," he says. …