What Would You Teach High School Students About Science?

You have 80 minutes visiting a high school science class. What do you do?

Tomorrow, I visit high school students to talk about careers in science. The classes are grade 11 Chemistry, grade 11 Earth Science, and grade 10 Science Honours*. What should I tell them?


The lesson will be partly autobiographical as I have a nonlinear career path: I'm in an unusual position of being able to talk about working in academics, industry fieldwork, entertainment and journalism. But I only have my own experiences of working in astrophysics, physics, and geophysics: I know nothing of pursuing a career in biology labwork, or the challenges of getting a job in computer science. What can you tell me? What advice would you give? Do you have an unusual career path using science (give me your stories & photos!)?

How about activities? Any suggestions for pocket-sized stand-alone interactive science lessons I can pull off with minimal materials?


* I'll be in a Canadian classroom: it legitimately has a U.

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Out of interest I summarized the comments here, not all, and some paraphrased. There is duplication, anecdotes and some are off-point. As I read through, the first idea that struck me was that Mika is speaking to grade 11 students, but the tone of many I think underestimates the maturity of the audience. These 'kids' have had at least 3 years of lab-science courses already, some have more if their elementary schools had a lab classroom. So comments could be refined to speak to the current level of science training in secondary schools. Anyway here is the summary:

  • scientific process they can relate to their everyday lives.
  • the Scientific Method, observe, invent a hypothesis, test, rinse and repeat (x4)
  • it's a process and not a collection of facts.
  • What a fact is. Science draws facts from things like inclined planes and glowing streams of electrons
  • reading will get them farther than almost anything else
  • say yes to opportunities that promise new experiences.
  • do their own research/development projects, start to finish.
  • just watch episodes of NOVA
  • major in CS (x3)
  • set as many things on fire in a controlled environment as possible
  • teach students how to fail upwards, risk failure (x2)
  • Critical thinking skills; informal logical fallacies (and how to properly evaluate them), and cognitive biases.
  • philosophy of science, if only the basics.
  • know the difference between science and other STEM fields, like math or engineering
  • "careers in science" is not limited to becoming a scientist
  • need to understand what science is
  • reward-based science experiment
  • math is language of science
  • all STEM types should be able to program
  • aerodynamics. a lot can be taught with a few pieces of paper and tape
  • scientific literacy
  • compare misleading newspaper articles with the papers they reference, and let the students figure out where the journalists went wrong in their interpretations.