Middle School Skeptics Club

Methods and means of supporting critical thinking in education
SlawDawg
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Middle School Skeptics Club

Post by SlawDawg » Thu Jun 28, 2012 12:00 am

Hello fellow skeptics,

I just finished my first year teaching 7th grade social studies at an inner city school in Massachusetts. One of the many things that shocked me during my first experience in this profession was how vulnerable kids of this age (12-13) are to believing stories of aliens, ghosts, monster, conspiracy theories etc.

As an example: I was shocked when the first day we started on Egypt the first thing that came to many of the kids’ minds was how aliens built the pyramids. I assumed it would come up, but I was shocked at how many of the kids were steadfast in the belief that this view was correct. There were many more occasions where similar ideas or beliefs came up during the year.

I decided that in hopes of countering some of these beliefs, next year (pending approval from the admins.) I want to start a skeptics club at our school. I've done some searches online for similar clubs to get ideas as to how to run it and activities to do, but I haven't been able to find much.

I'm thinking that we'll meet once or twice a week and groups will pick an issue like aliens building the pyramids, or bigfoot and then research it, come to a conclusion, then present it to the rest of the club. I'll also have some issues of Skeptic and Junior Skeptic available for the kids to look through.

The reason I told you all of that is because I'm looking for some help. Has anyone else run a similar club for kids this age? Does anyone have some good ideas of activities we can do? Maybe something fun to keep the kids interested and recruit more to join? Any ideas are welcome. Thanks for the help!
Last edited by SlawDawg on Mon Jul 02, 2012 12:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

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xouper
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Re: Middle School Skeptics Club

Post by xouper » Thu Jun 28, 2012 4:40 am

I have none of the experience you are asking about, but as I was reading your last paragraph, an idea popped into my head. Would it be fun to have a magician come to a club meeting and show how Uri Geller bends spoons? Or maybe not.

Or maybe have a contest to see which club member can stage the most believable UFO photo (or video) and let the club vote on the winner? Don't mind me, I'm just thinking out loud.

SlawDawg
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Re: Middle School Skeptics Club

Post by SlawDawg » Thu Jun 28, 2012 12:48 pm

Wow, I love both those ideas! Thanks!

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Austin Harper
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Re: Middle School Skeptics Club

Post by Austin Harper » Thu Jun 28, 2012 3:28 pm

I haven't done anything with kids before but I'm heavily involved in our local skeptics group. I know we have a couple teachers as members and we also have a high school freshman. I'll talk to the teachers at our next meeting to see if they have any ideas and I'll talk with the high schooler to see what kinds of things might interest him in a school group.
Dum ratio nos ducet, valebimus et multa bene geremus.

SlawDawg
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Re: Middle School Skeptics Club

Post by SlawDawg » Thu Jun 28, 2012 11:47 pm

Austin

That would be great. Thanks for the help

Pamam55
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Re: Middle School Skeptics Club

Post by Pamam55 » Tue Jul 10, 2012 4:45 pm

Conspiracy theories? Like the Gulf of Tonkin was staged? Oh wait....

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Re: Middle School Skeptics Club

Post by Pamam55 » Tue Jul 10, 2012 4:46 pm

SlawDawg wrote:Hello fellow skeptics,

I just finished my first year teaching 7th grade social studies at an inner city school in Massachusetts. One of the many things that shocked me during my first experience in this profession was how vulnerable kids of this age (12-13) are to believing stories of aliens, ghosts, monster, conspiracy theories etc.

As an example: I was shocked when the first day we started on Egypt the first thing that came to many of the kids’ minds was how aliens built the pyramids. I assumed it would come up, but I was shocked at how many of the kids were steadfast in the belief that this view was correct. There were many more occasions where similar ideas or beliefs came up during the year.

I decided that in hopes of countering some of these beliefs, next year (pending approval from the admins.) I want to start a skeptics club at our school. I've done some searches online for similar clubs to get ideas as to how to run it and activities to do, but I haven't been able to find much.

I'm thinking that we'll meet once or twice a week and groups will pick an issue like aliens building the pyramids, or bigfoot and then research it, come to a conclusion, then present it to the rest of the club. I'll also have some issues of Skeptic and Junior Skeptic available for the kids to look through.

The reason I told you all of that is because I'm looking for some help. Has anyone else run a similar club for kids this age? Does anyone have some good ideas of activities we can do? Maybe something fun to keep the kids interested and recruit more to join? Any ideas are welcome. Thanks for the help!
Terrible post. You are part of the problem, not the solution ESPECIALLY if you're a public school teacher getting paid by our taxes, which are taken at gunpoint from us.

You act as if you have all the knowledge when in fact you practically know very little. You are just "teaching" aka indoctrinating these students (who are there against their will) with the {!#%@} that is written in a stupid book that was "approved" by the government....you sir, FAIL

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Austin Harper
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Re: Middle School Skeptics Club

Post by Austin Harper » Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:05 pm

Don't listen to Pamam, he's a nut.

Our local skeptic group meet on Thursday so I'll finally tried to get you a response.
Dum ratio nos ducet, valebimus et multa bene geremus.

Pamam55
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Re: Middle School Skeptics Club

Post by Pamam55 » Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:07 pm

I hope your middle school children eat you up and spit you out. I hope they question everything and anything and get together and rebel!

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Pyrrho
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Re: Middle School Skeptics Club

Post by Pyrrho » Tue Jul 10, 2012 11:44 pm

The Pamam55 user account has been locked for 7 days while I consider options.
For any forum questions or concerns please e-mail skepticforum@gmail.com or send a PM.

The flash of light you saw in the sky was not a UFO. Swamp gas from a weather balloon was trapped in a thermal pocket and reflected the light from Venus.

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Re: Middle School Skeptics Club

Post by Matthew Ellard » Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:05 am

Pyrrho wrote:The Pamam55 user account has been locked for 7 days while I consider options.
Get rid of her Pyrrho. She doesn't do say anything specific or engage in any meaningful dialogue to allow members to "get their teeth" into her views.

It is as though the members are having a nice conversation in a room and Pamam55 opens the doors, screams "You all suck, but I'm enlightened" and slams the door closed again.

She's not a "fun loony" but rather a megaphone promoting David Icke's commercial website about human lizards. I suggest you close her account under the "promoting a commercial venture" rule for members.

Aztexan
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Re: Middle School Skeptics Club

Post by Aztexan » Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:28 am

I say make Pammie come in on Saturday and no recess for the rest of the week.
trump is Putin's bitch

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Austin Harper
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Re: Middle School Skeptics Club

Post by Austin Harper » Thu Jul 12, 2012 5:25 pm

Aztexan wrote:I say make Pammie come in on Saturday and no recess for the rest of the week.
You mean forge a conspiracy against him?
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Re: Middle School Skeptics Club

Post by Aztexan » Fri Jul 13, 2012 1:59 am

Don't mind if I do... :nuts:
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Austin Harper
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Re: Middle School Skeptics Club

Post by Austin Harper » Fri Jul 13, 2012 2:20 pm

Well last night's meeting wasn't as illuminating as I had hoped it would be. The main suggestions were pretty simple:
  • Have two people pick sides on a debate at one meeting and prepare arguments between the meetings. Try to get them in the debate to actually respond to the other side and not just stick to their own arguments. Sometimes the best way to learn about a subject is to try to find ways to convince the opposing side about it. If you do have a debate, though, make sure you point out the logical fallacy of the false dichotomy (just because one person is wrong does not mean the other is right; there could still be a third unexplored option).
  • Read a book (or a chapter of a book) with a pseudoscientific idea and try to get the students to notice the flaws in the arguments. (Are there any citations of real scientific studies? etc.)
Sorry I can't be of more help. Let me know if you need anything else.
Dum ratio nos ducet, valebimus et multa bene geremus.

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Re: Middle School Skeptics Club

Post by MrFab » Thu Jul 19, 2012 4:29 pm

Hi SlawDog. Did you get my reply to your PM? I was the guy with several boxes of magazines that you asked me to mail to you (inc. plenty of issues of Skeptic w/Jr Skeptic). Was just waiting for your address.

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diabla del sol
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Re: Middle School Skeptics Club

Post by diabla del sol » Sat Jul 28, 2012 12:45 am

I can't say that I am all that experienced with children either. First of all, I assume you are a public school teacher. I don't know how the parents are where you are from, but judging by how many kids believe in woo so firmly, I would say that you need to tread carefully. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea, but just be careful. I would say instead of going out and blatantly putting forth ideas like "Bigfoot isn't real", try to get to their thinking process. After all, you don't want to tell them that Bigfoot isn't real, you want to give them a better understanding of how to properly discern truth from falsehoods.

I liked the idea of who can create the most convincing fake video. Doing stuff like that, and of course showing them how videos can can be misleading, will teach them that just because a picture at first glance shows this or that, it can be misleading. Try to engage, keep lecturing to a minimum, rather show them. Another idea is try to find a picture, and crop it/adjust constant in such a way it make something appear to be there that isn't.

Another thought that came to me is why kids are happy to believe these things. The idea of aliens visiting us is exciting, and engages kid's imagination. You might find good luck with trying to let them know that they can still dream and pretend. Teach them to separate reality from fantasy, not to crush their fantasies. Maybe have them do the picture cropping thing, and make up a story for it. That is all I can think of right now, but I love what you are doing. I wish I got something like that as a kid.