Breathing New Life Into Science Research

by Charlie Norgaard

For years, science research has been a daunting experience for many students.

The grueling five-month process is intellectually demanding, exhausting, and difficult, requiring an often overwhelming level of self motivation and personal management that can send many students into a spiral of frustration. To many students, science research just creates another level of stress to tack onto their many other commitments and concerns, but the entire experience has countless lifelong benefits — benefits that are sometimes overlooked.

In my experience, when I’ve found myself struggling with science research, I’ve asked myself this question: What is the point and purpose of science research? I’ve never fully understood why the science department would force their students to invest in such a large project, so I had Science Department Chair, Ryan Holland, speak to this question.

Our science research program at OES is a fundamental expression of our philosophy that students best learn science by actually doing science. Science is a way of thinking that requires perseverance, forethought, reflection, troubleshooting, organization, logic, and intellectual rigor,” says Ryan.

Ryan added that the main goal is to have “students leave our school feeling like they can tackle any large project, in any discipline, that requires evidence-based argumentation. So, in a way we are not only teaching science skills, we are teaching life skills.”

Science research preaches the model of OES education: to prepare students for “higher education and lifelong learning” — it’s in the mission statement. It’s structured in such a way that students can learn and understand science through the exercise of their knowledge in an independent project.

Another relevant concern that has crossed the minds of many upper school students is: How can one learn all that is to be learned in a traditional science class with the disruption of science research?

They worry about their ability to be fully prepared for other science-based courses and exams. For those worried with the supposed ‘disruption’ of science research in later educational settings, Ryan emphasizes that, “there is no way you learn content just one time while covering it in high school. The reality is you have to revisit the curriculum over and over again before you can come close to being an ‘expert.’”

Additionally, Ryan mentions that the education earned through science research has a unique and profound value, enabling you to excel later in life using the lessons learned.

As I write this article, I target those who approach science research with criticism and pessimism. Though I admit to my own occasional frustration with the process, I have come to realize that science research is an invaluable experience. The skills learned are bound to benefit students with lifelong skills in educational and social settings. Science research is a formative experience, and it’s here to stay, so why not approach it with vigor?

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