It would be an understatement to say that science moves at a rapid pace. Not only are new discoveries made every day, but it is estimated that approximately two million scientific articles are published in roughly 30,000 scientific journals every year. With a textbook that might be more than a decade old (ours was published in 1998), how is a science teacher supposed to stay on top of it all? Moreover, how are we supposed to sift through it to find what might be relevant to our students? And . . . who has the time?

Three years ago, six teachers in our ten person science department decided to start a Science Journal Club. If you are a fan of television’s The Office, think “Finer Things Club” (yes, there are treats). We meet every 4 – 6 weeks. The goal is for each of us to share an article – anything that is relatively recent that we find interesting. The sources could be a primary journal article or a summary of an article. That’s it. It does not need to be related to our curriculum. We do not need to try to develop a lesson plan on our articles. Limiting the restrictions keeps it easy.

Our teachers in our Science Journal Club include Biology, Chemistry, and Physics teachers. As you can imagine, the topics have been all over the place. Coronavirus detection in waste water, the genetic basis of sleep, organocatalysis which was the latest Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and way more about twisted graphene and exotic neutrinos than I care to admit.

But the end result has been amazing. We have truly enjoyed getting together and doing something that is important for us as science teachers to do – keep current on science.

The week of Science Journal Club is filled with anticipation. We truly look forward to our after school meeting. It is amusing to me to see how nervous we get in presenting our article to each other. We talk to groups of teenagers 5-6 times each day, but talking to 5 other adults gives us butterflies. With each article, we ask each other questions for clarification and sometimes just to wonder. Do we always know the answers? Not a chance and we aren’t afraid to admit it. Pass the cookies and let’s move on to the next article.

Have I brought some of the concepts to my students? Sometimes. But, I don’t know if that’s the main point of Science Journal Club. The point is to do what professional scientists do on a regular basis – discuss science, stretch our minds, look at concepts from different vantage points. Will I ever design a lesson on graphene sheets? Probably not. Okay, definitely not. But do I know what interests my colleagues? Can I appreciate that science is broader than I will ever be able to comprehend? Can I relay that enthusiasm for learning to my students? You bet. Even just sharing with students that their teachers are busy after school later that day because they are giving a presentation on the latest scientific advances shows them that science is more than just what is in the textbook.

Some of the sites we have found helpful include the New York Times Science section, the journal Science has some wonderful summaries of primary journal articles, and Science Daily has also been helpful. But inspiration has also come from a variety of news reports and podcasts which have caused us to look into a topic a bit more for our Science Journal Club. Again, it is easier to limit the restrictions and let the participants find their own way. Anything which encourages other science teachers to share new discoveries is great.

Until next month…

PETER KRITSCH is an Oregon High School biology and biotechnology teacher who has been serving as an adjunct instructor and consultant for the BTC Institute for many years. He is primarily involved in our teacher training and support efforts. He also assists with the ongoing development of our Biotechnology Field Trips program and serves as an advisor for Camp Biotech I and Camp Biotech II for high school students.