Linking Science to Reality

By: Seham Elsherif

Humans are born with a natural affinity for exploration. As every scientific discovery begins with a question, studying science should arouse the curiosity of the students to ask questions. Thus, when children ask questions, this indicates that the process of communicating the scientific concept has been completed successfully and has aroused their curiosity to learn more.

One of the benefits of studying science is that it encourages students to learn; it searches for answers to questions that begin with "how" and "why" about everything that is moving and dynamic in the world around us. Moreover, studying science increases the creativity of students and teaches them the principles of scientific and critical thinking.

What is meant by critical thinking is to analyze the problem and try to solve it in a logical way, and start to question the reasons why something happened. What is the evidence? Can it be verified? Is the evaluation of the evidence based on information? Is the evaluation objective or biased? Are there other explanations for what is happening?

To encourage students to interact with science lessons and increase their curiosity to understand the scientific phenomena carefully and deeply, we must use experiments and connect science to real life, rather than memorization.

A Historical Overview of Educational Methods

In the past, education relied on memorization, but at the beginning of the 20th century, Johann Friedrich Herbart and John Dewey—two educational scholars—confirmed that education must focus on the student's contemporary experiences. Researches, then, indicated that the best way to learn is through conducting experiments and activities, in addition to searching for ideas, observing, and interpreting observations and connecting scientific concepts to reality.

Later, Herbert Thier and Robert Karplus presented the triple-loop learning strategy, which emphasizes the importance of students’ interaction in the classroom at the beginning of the lesson by clarifying the relationship between their experiences and knowledge of the lesson concepts. Then, Rodger Bybee came along and further developed the triple-loop learning strategy to become the quintuple-loop, explaining that the first step is to capture the student's attention to arouse their curiosity and connect their previous knowledge with the new knowledge.

The 5Es Model

The quintuple-loop learning strategy is a teaching strategy that is useful in linking scientific concepts to students experiences; it consists of five stages, all of which begin with the letter E: Engagement, Exploration, Explanation, Elaboration, and Evaluation, and they are known as the 5Es.

The strategy starts with the Engagement stage, which is implemented by preparing a short activity aiming at preparing the students to receive new information and linking it to what has been previously studied. The Engagement stage includes using images and videos, or asking a controversial question such as: Is climate change real? Or discuss with students their experiences related to the topic of the lesson.

After this stage, comes the Exploration stage, where students begin to explore the new concept through some activities, such as examining samples or conducting a simple experiment and recording what they observe. Then comes the Explanation stage, in which the students try to explain what happened during the exploration stage; the teacher helps them by clarifying the ambiguous parts and explaining the scientific concept.

As for the Elaboration stage, it is the stage of applying what students have learned in different contexts, or linking what they have learned to their experiences or to what is happening around them. The final stage is Evaluation, which shows whether students have deeply understood the basic concepts or not, and is not limited to tests and solving exercises only, but also includes giving presentations, designing posters, and writing articles.

Linking Science to Reality

It is important to care about the quality of education in schools and other educational institutions. To link science to reality and previous knowledge, we need to apply what students learnt by implementing activities derived from everyday situations; to learn about the impact of science on our lives. Students must know the importance of what they are learning and how it will be beneficial to them in their lives.

Research indicated that linking science to reality, and linking the curriculum to what happens outside the classroom, in addition to linking scientific phenomena to life experiences lead to improving students academic achievement and prepare them for future jobs, as well as improving their skills that can help them in their lives.

The student must realize the importance of what s/he is studying in regards to several aspects: is it related to their dreams, aspirations, experiences, hobbies, professional future, social life, or local culture? Will it make them a better citizen? Is it related to politics, their civil life, or does it clarify their role in this world?

For example, suppose a teacher wants to explain to the students the importance of the lesson about weather patterns; they may recognize that studying this will help them plan their weekends well, or perhaps increase their interest in professional specialization in the field of meteorology, or draw their attention to the responsibility they have towards their community to deal with the effects of climate change.

The science lesson may be linked to reality by bringing up an example or situation from culture or art, or by linking international events to the student's life. If they were discussing drought, the teacher can ask the students: what are the lessons that can be learned from observing the phenomenon that occurs in different regions of the world? This might help the students to think about the problem of clean water availability or try to design a water purification system.

Students can be assigned projects to propose solutions to problems, while teaching them how to think in a scientific way when solving problems. It begins by observing, then questioning those observations, then collecting the necessary information to answer the questions, then making assumptions and testing them through experiments, then analyzing the experimental data and adding conclusions.

The teacher must explain the importance of conducting scientific experiments before implementing them in school laboratories, by explaining a practical example based on situations written by the teacher. It can explain the way scientists think when they discover or develop theories, or the way engineers think when preparing designs.

The Creative Teacher

A creative teacher is a teacher who is not satisfied with the traditional methods of teaching, but loves to develop their teaching method. They innovate the method of motivating students towards deep learning and creative thinking, make their students ask many questions, link knowledge with practical application, and also tries to link science and other academic subjects that students learn.

To illustrate the difference between traditional and creative methods of teaching science, we will present an example of explaining the lesson on bone density. Here, the teacher who is following traditional methods will ask students to soak chicken bones in a bowl full of vinegar for one day, and observe what happens to the bone density. The creative teacher, on the other hand, will develop this method using a guiding question. They ask their students how bone density can change due to the effect of one of the ingredients that we use in daily life, and give them some references to search for the answer to this question.

Then, the creative teacher will divide the students into groups, each group will discuss several questions, and then each group will present the questions it has. The next stage is choosing the scientific question that they will work to solve, and then they conduct experiments, collect data, interpret it, and display it in the form of graphs. In the end, students reach the final conclusion, and use technological tools to create a design that summarizes what they have reached, whether it is in the form of an info graph, video, or article. Thus, students learn what affects bone density and how to maintain bone health.

Here is another example: in the traditional method, the teacher asks their students to read a part of a research and then summarize the most important, explaining the relationship between what they have learned and what is related to life and reality. Visual blogging is a method of recording information enhanced with illustrations, symbols, and colors.

Real-life Examples of Linking Science to Reality

Hereunder, we will review three examples of the experiences of science teachers who succeeded in linking school curricula to the reality experienced by students.

The first example is what a science teacher followed in a school in Colorado in the United states of America. In order to explain a lesson about renewable and non-renewable energy sources to fifth-grade students, the class began using the "Icebreaker Bingo" game. Then, she asked them to read about solar panels and wind turbines through books, then design wind turbines and build models of them, and use sensors to collect data and transmit results.

Through this method, students learned how to measure current and voltage, and understood that these factors change as the load on the circuit changes. Thus, the hands-on training helped them understand the lesson deeply. Later on, the students began to read books, watch videos, and browse websites to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy, and then write down what they learned in their own notebooks. Now, students are ready to answer the question: should Colorado establish an initiative to expand the use of renewable energy?

The second example is what some teachers in Missouri did during the COVID-19 pandemic; they modified the tenth-grade biology curriculum to include a special section on COVID-19, in cooperation with the University of Missouri.

The third example is what the science teacher Julie Wojnar did in Ohio, when she explained the ecosystems to her students. She used to take them on fieldtrips to a park overlooking Erie Lake in Ohio, where the students conducted experiments on the water, explored organisms in the lake's ecosystem, and learned how the food webs of living organisms worked. When it came to lessons on sound, she organized a special program for the students in which she hosted specialists to conduct sound activities with them. The students used scientific tools to measure sound intensity and understand the meaning of decibels and sound waves, and how they are transmitted; they also learned how to protect themselves from hearing loss.


In conclusion, linking science to reality is primarily accomplished by finding the relationship between the students experiences and the new knowledge they will learn. However, the challenge that faces teachers is that there are many variables regarding each student's experiences, knowledge, culture, and method of learning. It is somewhat difficult for teachers to know the experiences of each student, and here comes the role of the parents to cooperate with the teachers to achieve significant development in the educational process.