“I saw a show on The Discovery Channel….”

In science, and all content areas, a common hurdle teachers are faced with is finding and correcting preconceptions. I find one of my biggest assets and resources for student engagement in science outside of the classroom is also the bane of my existence: The Discovery Channel.

Don’t get me wrong, there are very few shows on The Discovery Channel that I don’t love, ‘Myth Busters’ is a classic favorite and ‘Curiosity’ has been a recent interest, with many in between.  My problem is not with the content, I am sure I would be amazed by the amount of fact checking and rechecking that goes into the production of shows, on top of the steadfast use of the scientific method.

However, I personally know that if I listen to an hour of information and facts I’m going to remember the big picture, but the small details, not so much.

Students, on the other hand, seem to become instant experts (or at least think they are). They will watch a show on Discovery and something in class will trigger a memory of that show. Leading to the classic line, I’m sure hundreds of teachers have heard, “I saw a show on The Discovery Channel….”

For instance, tons of students love ‘Shark Week’ (as do I). They watch what sounds like hours of the programming and come to class as experts on sharks.

I get lines like:

“I saw a show on The Discovery Channel… and a shark can’t bite with a force of 3000 pounds per square inch”

or

“I saw a show on The Discovery Channel… and sharks have 15 rows of teeth that replace each other when one falls out.”

First of all, this is Great! To have students engaged in science outside of the classroom is excellent. Yet, students use the line ‘I saw a show on The Discovery Channel…’ as a way to make what they are saying instant fact. Yet, I often find the ideas they remember are correct, but the details are off.

For instance, according to The Discovery Channel the record bite strength measured experimentally to date is 42,000 pounds per square inch, a bit more than the student thought, but on the other hand some species of shark do have up to 15 rows of replaceable teeth. Batting .500, not too shabby.

The students’ information gets to the meat of the idea: sharks have powerful jaws; they do have rows of replaceable teeth. But it leaves out important details like: what type of shark, the difference between strength, force and pressure, and did the student remember the numbers, or the science vocabulary correctly.

(Check out these Top 20 Shark Fact videos from The Discovery Channel for more great shark info.)

Oftentimes, we end up fact checking and at times have discovered that students, in fact, had remembered the exact factoid, but we’ve more often found the alternative. The main idea is correct, but the details are off.

Again, I love that students are remembering some of these big picture concepts and making connections in the classroom (I’m a sucker for a good tangent), but when I get “I saw a show on The Discovery Channel….” I know that I’m going to have make sure we do some research as a class and make sure students learn and remember the accurate information. Because, for some reason students can remember a miniscule fact, right or wrong, uttered by a peer, for months after, but can forget something I told them a minute ago. Imagine that. Weird.

Discovery, I beg you, don’t stop what you’re doing. You get students excited about science at home! I’ll keep doing my best to make sure the next “I saw a show on The Discovery Channel…” gets handle and we learn from it, just like all the rest of them.

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3 responses

    • Thank you for your kind words! I do love what I do and I am trying to put thoughts out into the world about teachers that are positive and passionate to offset some of the negativity that the media focuses on.

  1. Wow, you said it! This is exactly what I would expect from Discovery especially since they always have great up in your face entertainment. I love sharks and you get such an informative collection of knowledge. I also grew up watching the Discovery Channel and being sucked into the magnificent ride of food for my brain. Always coming up with interesting ideas and opportunities to learn, Discovery has made the quest to learn fun and exciting which is a necessary part of learning for the young minds of tomorrow. I have a broad interest base and look for a variety of opportunities to grow my brain but I seem to spend a bit more time on the Universe and different animals. I travel a lot and see less and less of couch TV as well but I have discovered a cool new way to continue my desire to learn by narration. Working for Dish Network does put me in the air a lot but also gave me an idea that has been helpful in this situation. As far as entertainment providers, I knew I would need satellite because of the options available. Therefore, I started doing a comparison on which provider would give me the resources I need to have a successful blog. Due to my joy of the planet and writing, I require a service that provides me with the necessary options for my needs. It was a bit shocking that Direct TV requires an online rebate application to get new customer promotions, which take 6-8 weeks. There are no extras for the basic package if that is all I can afford. Meaning no free HD for life, or an upgrade to a DVR should I need one. Nor would I receive premium movie channels once I am a customer as I found with Dish Network once a customer. This is not an option due to what I am looking for. Dish offers far more programming and movie channels for far less money plus a free Sling Adapter free through a rebate to qualifying new and existing customers, which fits me as I travel a lot and need to bring my services with me. More recently, I became aware that as of October the Blockbuster Movie Pass was launched. Hello Live Streaming! For someone like me who travels more now and needs specific access this comparison is blatantly obvious to me. Looking at my options is a gift from my Dad, how thankful I am that he gave me a broader perspective that I can utilize throughout my creativity. I take little adventures while I’m away since I enjoy investigating my surroundings but, there are some experiences that I may never get a chance to enjoy. On Discovery, I can live those dreams!

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