I think it is so important for high school students to read REAL science and the best way to read real science is to read scientific journal articles. Reading news articles about scientific discoveries are ok but to really get the sense of what scientists do in their labs around the world, it’s great to get kids to read the real thing!
Why can’t I just go and print an article out and hand it to my students to read? Well, these scientific journal articles were written by graduate students, postdoctoral students, and professors. If you run a readability test on a normal scientific journal article, you will find that the reading level is around the 17th grade level! These articles are usually full of scientific jargon and terminology that only other scientists in the article’s field can read. This is where I use my graduate degree training (yay!) I can read these articles and translate them into a language that is approachable and readable for a high school student.
When I want to adapt an article, the first step is to find an article I am allowed to use under copyright laws.
When I look for articles to adapt for my high school students to read, I always look for articles that are labeled Open Access. Why use open access articles? Copyright laws are important, even for teachers who are taking advantage of fair use laws. Every journal company has its own rules on what can be printed, when, how many, without paying them more cash! Some journal articles are not supposed to be printed out and given to others (meaning our students) at all! This is why I always look for Open Access articles. Open Access articles can be printed, copied, quoted, re-used in any way, as long as the author and journal is properly cited! You can print and copy without violating copyright, as long as you cite the article’s source.
Scientists usually have to pay the journal an extra fee in order for the article they publish to be open access. As a high school teacher who doesn’t normally have access to university research databases, I am very thankful for these scientists who publish open access articles that are available to all people online. It is very important to always give these scientists credit for their work! Before I taught high school science, I worked in several different university labs while I completed my undergraduate and graduate degrees. Research is hard and often tedious work! Scientists definitely don’t get enough credit for discoveries they make and this is why it is so important to credit them each time I adapt their article for high school students. It’s also a great opportunity to teach students about plagiarism and giving credit!
Here is a list of websites you can use to search for open access journal articles:
Biomed Central: http://www.biomedcentral.com/
Directory of Open Access Journals: http://doaj.org/
Many other journals have some open access articles, but it is not always easy to find open access ones mixed in with all of their other articles.
I like to browse through the recent issues of these open access journals and look for articles to adapt. PLOS is my favorite. It is user-friendly and has some great articles on it!