Method, Uncertainty & Thinking: A Visit from Dr. Beal

An energetic lecture by Dr. Brian Beal at Breakwater School

An energetic lecture by Dr. Brian Beal at Breakwater School

Denny Church, Breakwater Grade 5/6 Associate, writes about his students' explorations into scientific method and inquiry:

In the 5/6 classroom over the last month, our students have been begun to investigate scientific method, scientific uncertainty, and scientific thinking.

They have asked: What kind of evidence does one need to gather in order to be scientifically ‘certain’ that something is true? Can one always be certain? 

The 5/6 teaching team designed and facilitated several opportunities for children to grapple with, explore, and better understand these concepts. 

To launch the guided inquiry, teachers introduced the question “does increasing an object’s weight make it fall faster?” Students then designed and conducted their own experiments. 

In another opportunity, Dr. Brian Beal, a Professor of Marine Ecology at the University of Maine Machias, visited our 5/6 students on March 17 as a working scientist.

His position at UMM is divided equally between teaching and research, and includes his work at Down East Institute.  Also, Dr. Beal is the director of UMM's Marine Field Station at Black Duck Cove.

Dr. Beal was instrumental in establishing Maine’s first lobster hatchery in the town of Cutler in 1986. He worked with clammers and shellfish committees in six Washington County towns to create Maine’s first public clam hatchery in 1987 known as the Beals Island Regional Shellfish Hatchery. Dr. Beal was a 2000-2001 Fulbright scholar at the National University of Ireland, Galway where he worked with Irish fishermen and researchers on ocean-based lobster nurseries. 

While visiting, Dr. Beal shared some of his research on clam populations in Maine and, perhaps more importantly, gave our students an inside look at how a scientist goes about designing and conducting experiments in order to draw evidence-based conclusions. 

We were also lucky enough to be visited by former State Senator Stan Gerzofsky, who has worked closely with Dr. Beal in order to put forth scientifically-based legislation for clam harvesting in Maine. This gave students important insight into how science makes necessary and important impacts on “real world” situations.

More about Dr. Beal and his work:
State Lecture: Brian Beal, Gulf of Maine Research Institute
Bangor News
Down East Institute report on the "shellfish restoration program" in Freeport

More about Breakwater's Middle School curriculum: