A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.

The Rule of 90

This past week I have been at the Geological Society of America’s national meeting in Denver and now that I’m finally home, I have some time to write down some of the questions I’ve got and some of the things I’ve learned.

find your science gsa

On Sunday, I spent most of my day in the education sessions since I am still very intimidated by the structural geology talks. One of the presents mentioned the 90% of students forget 90% of what you taught them within 90 days of completing your course. That is a startling statement. I even have it bracketed in my notes with the exclamation “Gah!” next to it. Where do you start with this? What does this say about how we are teaching our students? I want my students to come away with way more than just 10% of whatever I covered. Is this statistic a reflection of our broken education system? When I’m out in the real world, I am taught lessons that I remember. Why? Because I’m participating in the process. I get a say and I have some of the control. In classrooms, I forget because it is not necessary to remember. No one really shows the connections to the real world that I need to remember it. Literary criticism, sure it’s helpful when I’m trying to annoy my sister, but I don’t actually apply it when I read. Same with most of my other classes. I hope that I can fix this model for my students. That by involving them in true inquiry and letting them have choice will help them engage with their own learning, with their education. Hopefully, this will help them remember something, anything, about what I’ve taught them.



How will you fight for your 90?

Another interesting topic that came up in some of the discussions I observed was the general feeling of discontent from earth science teachers. They are tired of being treated like the least useful, least challenging science. They are at the bottom of the totem pole with the physics and biology teachers on lofty pedestals. While this seems fairly discouraging, I was estatic. I was finally learning about the real experiences and challenges that these science teachers were facing. I can finally begin to plan for what I might expect. I have never observed an earth science classroom at the high school level, but the untalked about trend is that they are quickly growing in number. I think that this shows hope. Also, one of the recent Nobel prize winners talked about geoscience as one of the most important sciences because it brings together all the separate fields. Geoscience needs biology, physics, and chemistry. It is a science so applicable, you can walk out your front door and see it with your own eyes. Change is happening. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS – like Common Core, but for science) have an increased emphasis on the earth sciences and they are being adopted by many states. Earth sciences will not be forever hidden beneath a rock, if you’ll forgive my pun. One of the speakers said, change will come, we just have to be patient.

I'll wait

But I will also be active. I will not wait forever. 

I was surprised by the talks I saw on education and climate change/global change. Many of the researchers who had taken the surveys recorded data that teachers were being discouraged from teaching global change by parents and other teachers. This group of teachers who were being discouraged were only 10% of the total surveyed population, but I think that’s a pretty significant number. It was shocking to think that in a world that is trying so hard to become greener and more resourceful still has a significant number of people trying to say no and dragging their feet. Other teachers are also being encouraged to teach both sides of climate change. I don’t even know what the other side is. I think that this sort of problem is just a scratch on the surface for all teachers. There will be topics that we will want to teach, that we feel we need to teach to help turn our students into educated citizens, and there will be those other adults, those other ‘educated citizens,’ who will tell us no. They fill their children’s minds with so much of their no that we are combatting it every way we turn in our classrooms. From evolution to climate change, from human sexuality to stereotypes. Students are never a blank slate. They are always coming to you with ideas passed on from the adults in their life. So, how do we help them acknowledge other evidence for a truth that will help us find a better tomorrow?

far far better

On a side note, I have an advertisement from Shell Oil that I cut out of The Economist several years ago and have hanging on my wall. I’m going to share it with you now because I think that it pertains to hope which is what this conference has helped spark in me once again.

Say No to No

Isn’t it high time someone got negative about negativity?

Yes it is.

Look around. The world is full of things that, according

to nay-saryers, should never have happened.




And yet “yes.”

Yes, continents have been found.

Yes, men have played golf on the moon.

Yes, straw is being turned into biofuel to power cars.

Yes, yes, yes.

What does it take to turn no into yes?

Curiosity. An open mind. A willingness to take risks.

And, when the problem seems most insoluble, when the

challenge is hardest, when everyone else is shaking

their heads, to say: let’s go.

Photo on 2013-10-31 at 14.36



3 comments on “The Rule of 90

  1. Elisabeth Ellington
    November 8, 2013

    This is pretty interesting stuff. My question is, why do we continue teaching students to memorize stuff that’s Googleable? Why do we continue prioritizing the 90%, when it’s actually the 10% that students take with them? We worry so much about the content students are learning, but the content should really be the least of our worries, because what students will take with them are the larger thinking, creating, and learning strategies we teach. I think this is an especially interesting issue in the sciences, where there may be a core set of “facts” that students need to understand alongside the problem-solving “scientific method” type thinking.

  2. Tena Cook
    November 27, 2013
  3. Pingback: Dealing With No | lechatdu503

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