Author Archives: mary sikkes

Children, Science, and Conceptual Challenges

In theory, the idea that we do not ‘assume’ until we have all required information appears a relatively straight-forward concept; however, as the video and articles this week have shown, in reality this concept is far from straight-forward.  What struck me most in this week’s materials was the point that if students do not share their misconceptions with us, we may never realize they have misconceptions, and as was clearly shown in “A Private Universe” (1987), students may go through their entire educational careers without realizing, understanding, or correcting the misconceptions they have held since childhood.  As Heather’s teacher, Marlene LaBossiere, points out, “You just assume that they know certain things…I just assumed that they had the basic ideas, and they don’t” (“A Private Universe”, 1987, time stamp: 8:55).  Driver, Guesne and Tiberghien (1985) draw attention to the fact that children approach science with ideas and interpretations despite not having received instruction.  Similarly, Henriques (2000) states that “…students enter the classroom with their own understandings of the world…often at odds with the scientifically accepted view of the world” (p. 1).  In addition to these points, once we receive instruction, we all assimilate information differently depending on our prior knowledge and experiences (Driver, Guesne, & Tiberghien, 1985).

Many difficulties related to misconceptions arise for educators, among them: how do we identify students’ misconceptions (especially when each child has their own “private” misconceptions) and where have students’ misconceptions originated from?  Misconceptions can originate from textbooks, classroom experiences, and personal experiences (A Private Universe, 1987), as well as physical activities, communications with others, and through media sources (Driver, Guesne, & Tiberghien, 1985, p. 2).  In addition to these, in her paper, “Children’s misconceptions about weather: A review of the literature” Laura Henriques (2000) discusses the fact that “students tend to develop their own models to explain phase changes” (p.4) which coincides with Heather’s explanation strategies in “A Private Universe” (1987) as she attempted to explain her thinking through drawings and manipulatives.

The misconception I examined more closed was related to phase changes of water and the variety of misconceptions students have around changes in state.  For example, rather than understanding how condensation is formed on a container, children may believe the water has “seeped through” or “sweated through” the container; that “coldness comes through the container and produces water”; or that “condensation is when air turns into a liquid” (Henriques, 2000, p.5).  Henriques suggests that these misconceptions may be based in the following: “language used is confusing – we talk about glasses “sweating” and humans sweat liquids from the inside.  It is difficult for students to think about invisible water in the air which condenses onto a surface” (p. 5-6).

Today, there are a variety of sources available to help educators dispel misconceptions about topics in science.  Digital technology allows for more interactive, engaging and motivating learning experiences in today’s classrooms.  Tools such as interactive websites or SMART technologies (i.e., SMARTboards, tablets, iPads, etc.) have the potential to add to interactive experiences for students, potentially helping to correct misconceptions through this interactive approach.  I remember being in a SET-BC sponsored workshop about eight years ago where we were shown a virtual lab on how to dissect a frog.  I found the virtual lab so interesting, and the experience made enough of an impact on me that I remember it above anything else we were shown that day.  I do not recall the exact site, but I did check online and found that McGraw Hill Higher Education does have a Virtual Lab site that has a “Virtual Frog Dissection” just to show an example (  In today’s classrooms, in addition to more traditional printed materials, we are privileged to have access to videos, interactive games, simulations and virtual labs which have the potential to increase student understanding on a more basic level, as well as foster a deeper understanding for students who are willing to accept the challenge.

*On a side note, I found Laura Henriques’s paper provided a number of interesting misconceptions students had regarding various aspects of science/earth science (if you are interested in viewing it, here is the link:

Driver, R., Guesne, E., & Tiberghien, A.  (1985).  Children’s ideas and the learning of science.  Children’s Ideas in Science (pp. 1-9).  Milton Keynes [Buckinghamshire]; Philadelphia: Open University Press.

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (Producer).  (1987).  A Private Universe [online video].  Retrieved 6 January, 2017, from:

Henriques, L.  (2000, April).  Children’s misconceptions about weather: A review of the literature.  Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching, New Orleans, LA.  Retrieved 7 January, 2017, from:

Christmas 1989 and a Tandy 1000

My earliest computer-related experience took place on Christmas 1989, when my siblings and I unwrapped our first home computer, a Tandy 1000 from RadioShack (640 KB; 8/4 MHz – my dad keeps good records). In addition to my six family members all vying for computer time, my parents had strict rules around any screen time, and did not approve of games they did not consider educational. They did, however, allow “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” (considered educational) and “The Colonel’s Bequest” (less educational, but allowed because my dad attended Tulane University, as did the main character, and lived in New Orleans, where the game takes place). My siblings and I still look back on these two games with fond memories, and it is interesting to me just what an impact even relatively limited use of a computer had on us.

The questions that come to mind when I think of my own computer experiences are often related to the educationally sound debate that follows many of the digital technology initiatives in classrooms. Based on the upbringing I had, I think I tend to shy away from using much digital technology in the classroom because of the amount of screen time I automatically assume students have at home (I recognize class screen-time is different, but my bias, unfortunately, is hard to shake). My questions are: How do I decipher which digital technology applications/initiatives are beneficial and which are not in terms of preparing students for their futures? How does an increased use of digital technology in the classroom affect students’ development in other areas (i.e., the haptics of writing, hands-on experiences with manipulatives, etc.)?

Hello from chilly Smithers, B.C.

Hi all!

My name is Mary Sikkes. I live in Smithers, B.C., a relatively small town in northwestern British Columbia, Canada. I was born and raised in Smithers and moved back fourteen years ago when I began teaching. Two of my three siblings have moved back to Smithers as well, and both my parents and in-laws live within twenty minutes of my house, so lots of family around! After TTOCing for a couple of years, I taught at the secondary school I attended as a teenager for the first eight years of my full-time teaching career (learner support and English), before moving to elementary where I now teach in a grade 4/5 classroom in the same elementary school I attended as a child.

I have two stepsons (ages 18 and 20) and a niece (2 years) and nephew (14 months) who I suppose would be my “past-times” at this point. My sons have both just headed back out after being home with us for the holidays. My younger son plays hockey in Golden, B.C. (he’ll be moving back home in February when the season finishes) and my older son is studying Environmental Management at UNBC in Prince George (about four hours away from Smithers). My sister and her family (which includes my niece and nephew mentioned above) live just fifteen minutes away, so I see them whenever I have a spare moment.

I am currently enrolled in my 7th and 8th MET courses (ETEC 533 and 510) and have taken core courses: ETEC 500, 511, 512, and electives: 521 (Indigeneity, Technology and Education), 532 (Technology in the Arts and Humanities Classroom), and 540 (Text Technologies – The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing).

From this course, I am hoping to learn how to integrate digital technology more effectively into my math and science lessons. My students love engaging with technology, but I am hesitant to use too much digital technology at this point because I do not want to use technology simply because the students love it; I want to use it because I have a clear understanding of how it is benefitting learning. At this point, I have difficulty, especially in relation to math, with how to incorporate technology beyond fluency-building games such as Reflex Math. My hope is to have a better understanding of the philosophies behind the integration of technology in math and science, as well as some tools to use within my classroom.

I look forward to working with you all!