If the "Book of Science" were written by a kid it would start by answering some basic questions:
1) How was the universe started?
2) Why do girls put on make-up?
3) Where and when was science first used in the world?
Just as the world keeps spinning, so does the list of questions about science from kids, in this case, one seventh-grade science class taught by Kim Swayze who teaches middle-school science at E.V. Cain in Auburn, CA.
Her students questions reflect concepts and emotions that many other teachers have seen their students grappling with as well.
Sandra Giuliani has been a K-12 teacher near Sacramento, California for over twenty years. Of all her experiences in teaching, she reflects back on her days as a middle-school science teacher with a special fondness.
Although some students questions may be as simple as the often ridiculed "Why is the sky blue?" which may have evolved to "Why is the grass green?" depending on the classroom, Giuliani said she has been asked many confusing and even a few bamboozling things by students, things like "What type of non-intellectual organisms live in space?" or less involved ones like "Why does hair turn gray?"
The difference in maturation within the K-12 spectrum is dramatic—Giuliani will vouch for that. This is apparent in the kinds of questions students ask in Science class.
"They like to impress each other," Giuliani said. "So they ask questions according to their mood. Sometimes they feel goofy, want to act tough and some are very serious about a scientific subject."
The tendency for middle-school age science students to ask broad questions is also the norm.Questions like "Why does the Earth change from season to season?" cover a wide-ranging sphere of wonderment.
Giuliani explains the phenomenon in one word, as simply as a ornithologist would give an answer to "How do birds glide so well?" That word is "experience."
When their knowledge deepens, as with high school seniors, Giuliani says their schema of questions also matures.
Middle-school aged pupils unconsciously gain knowledge about science by watching television. This is opportunity to develop an interest in a specific scientific area.
Giuliani said she has witnessed such cases in her classroom many times. "Some kids are genuinely interested and ask pertinent questions to things they saw on TV such as specifics on the environment, pollution, evolution, abortion and choice."
In Swayze's classroom the year has just begun. Students are just beginning their textbook reading and haven't gotten very specific yet.
Even so, their questions show an interest in what they have reviewed in class. "How does Jane Goodall observe so well and how did she help scientists learn more about chimpanzees?" Other questions such as "How are pencils made?" are based on aesthetic details manifested in their immediate surroundings.
In Swayze's class one student asked "What is the scientific method?" Giuliani said that many of the questions that middle-schoolers ask are universal. Other students asked "How was the moon formed?" or "Why is there pollution in the world?"
"There's diversity, but in general I believe all kids are the same," Giuliani names a few of the obstacles her students portray, especially through the types of questions they ask in class. "There's hormones, peer-pressure, growing-up, embarrassment, lack of self-esteem, lack of experience…"
"Who made the term homosapien?" one student asked. The question relates to the origins of students themselves a subject that middle-schoolers all over the world are just beginning to examine at this age.
As students try to understand their place in the world and wonder about the perceptions of others they also ask questions like, "What is the favorite number on average between one and 50?" and "What is the smartest equation ever?" These sorts of questions are ones that put the "life" in life science.
Sadly, including all the questions from students in Swayze's first period science class on the 27th of August is as impossible as putting answers to "How did life start on Earth?" or "What would happen if we hit another galaxy?" in simple form.