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July 30, 2017 AT 6:00 am

The Ongoing Battle Between Science Teachers And Fake News

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With an overabundance of fake news science teachers are struggling to compete. Via npr:

Every year Patrick Engleman plays a little trick on his students. The high school chemistry teacher introduces his ninth-graders in suburban Philadelphia to an insidious substance called dihydrogen monoxide. It’s “involved in 80 percent of fatal car crashes. It’s in every single cancer cell. This stuff, it’ll burn you,” he tells them.

But dihydrogen monoxide is water. He says several of his honors classes decided to ban it based just on what he told them.

And science teachers aren’t immune themselves. Earlier this year, Engleman received a booklet from the conservative Heartland Institute.

The packaging included a cover letter, “glossy book and a CD” advising teachers to be skeptical because scientists — it says — are unsure about the cause of climate change.

A recent study out of Penn State showed that one-third of science teachers are open to the idea that climate change could be naturally occurring, instead of human caused.

This poses a particular challenge to people like Susan Yoon, who are training the next generation of science teachers. She’s a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.

She tells her students — like Nick Gurol, whose middle-schoolers believe the Earth is flat — that, as hard as they try, science teachers aren’t likely to change a student’s misconceptions just by correcting them.

For cases like this, Yoon suggests teachers give students the tools to think like a scientist. Teach them to gather evidence, check sources, deduce, hypothesize and synthesize results. Hopefully, then, they will come to the truth on their own.

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