Today I learned that the Scientific Method not only demands that we observe correctly, but that we communicate our observations effectively as well. Since not all truth can be communicated by blogs, we have a language which is very handy when talking about extremely large (times ten to the sixth power, mega, etc.) and extremely small (times ten to the minus sixth power, micro, etc.) quantities. And no matter how large or small, measurements must be true (accurate) and consistent (precise).
Thankfully, we have invented a battery of instruments that can measure the nearly infinite and nearly infinitesimal. I am excited to think of a lab with meters of all sorts lined up and waiting to go out and measure the world, from light waves to electricity to acidity.
But I am worried about starting this lofty course of study with the mundane matters of measure. It seems backwards, like studying nails and hammers before understanding what a house looks like. Wouldn’t it be more compelling if we started with some of the Classic Mysteries of Chemistry and then learned how Scientific Notation, a Voltmeter, and Precision saved the day?
Next Up: Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes
I am going to need reference books and an occasional study hall, so I head to the public library in Clinton, Missouri. I find the Henry County Library on a gravel road one block off the historic square. As I pull into the parking lot I notice the Sheriff’s Office next door. I bet that keeps overdue books to a minimum.
The stern sixty-something librarian fits my stereotype perfectly until I notice the court jester tattoo that covers most of her right forearm. She patiently explains that my 15$ annual fee allows me 10 books and 4 dvds with an overdue fine of 2 cents/day. I complete the application, which requires a personal reference, and step inside the cool library quiet.
My first subject is The Scientific Method, aka The Engineers’ Gospel. It feels like catching up with an old friend. That is, an old friend who gives pop quizzes. I am reminded that The Method is nothing without Observation and that Observation is nothing without Measurement. Otherwise, we would still all believe in Spontaneous Generation and that frogs come from mud.
After two hours I am craving coffee, but YELP tells me that the closest coffee shop is 70.7 miles away. That feels as distant as my teaching career. Back to work.
I downloaded my study materials today. I even set up my course notebook, a time-honored tradition of hole-punching, printing labels, and sliding them into the little colored tabs. I indulge in some reminiscing and wonder – does anyone even make notebooks anymore? It’s been so long.
I have five sections so far:
1. ABCTE Course Checklist
2. Professional Teaching Knowledge (PTK) Study Plan
3. PTK Standards
4. Chemistry Study Plan
5. Chemistry Standards.
I watched the PTK Study Plan presentation, which is all about the test for PTK certification. It has 100 multiple choice questions (2.5 hours) and one essay question (1 hour). The test designers recommend deciding the answer for each question before looking at the choices, because half of them are “designed distractors.”
I decide to start with the Chemistry section instead of PTK because I want to have the content fresh in my mind while I learn to teach and, honestly, right now I’m a lot more comfortable with Chemistry.
Next Up: The Scientific Method