DESIGNING SCIENCE TO INSPIRE YOUNG LEARNERS 15
DesigningScience to Inspire Young Learners
Scienceis a multi-faceted field and as a body of knowledge possesses factsand a process (Clegg, 2007). According to Eshach, these two elementsaccrue room for continuous discovery that in turn paves way for “thelinking of the isolated facts to the comprehensive and coherentunderstanding of the natural world” (2006:32). Science is excitingin that it provides the thrill of figuring out something that no oneelse had discovered before. The complexity of the facts stated andthe discoveries made display science as a difficult entity to dwellon. More importantly, children interested in science as a lifelongcareer do so owing to the various approaches to teaching anderudition processes engaged by teachers in schools (Luce & HSI,2014).
Researchindicates that the key aspects of learning science include knowledge,understanding of the subject matter, and planning on the teaching andlearning process (Peacock, 2004). In addition, Sharp argues that italso involves the collection of evidence, recording and presentation,interpretation, evaluation and development of informed attitudestowards science (2009: 29). Further research efforts by Smithindicate that the aspects are emphasized at the Early YearsFoundation Stages of learners “which covers the development, careand learning from age 0 to five years” (2014: 421).
Furtherstudies have also enlightened on the possibility of learnersacquiring knowledge through their ideas, inquiry, through the ICT,and engagement with friends (Taber, 2014). The excitement aboutscience, therefore, can be build using the primary 5E`s teaching andlearning approach, the cartoon approach, existence of science indaily life and information on the latest discoveries (Byrne et al.,2007).
Accordingto Cross and Board, “the 5E`s of learning and teaching involve fivephases namely engaging, explaining, elaborating, and evaluation”(2015:45). The model engages the children actively in the learningprocess as they employ their prior knowledge and literacy to explainthe hands-on experience of the scientific phenomenon (Clegg, 2007).It builds on the ideas that the learners have concerning the subject,what they have been told and what they bring in.
Engagingyoung learners involves tackling each topic or unit in depth. Eachunit mentally engages learners to engage in different activities,build interest in the concept develop, share knowledge acquired priorand accommodate the new ideas acquired (Devereux, 2000). Acase in point in the school is where students engaged in literacydescriptive writing having been authorized to describe how differentchocolate types feels , tastes , smells and how it sounds whilechewing. On the other hand, Walker opines that “exploring involves thelearners` hands-on tackling of the scientific phenomenon anddescribing in the way they conceptualize it” (2010:102). These givethem firsthand experience and the knowledge used to help others makesense of the new concept. Explanation banks on the experienceattained in exploration making it easier for the teacher to developexplanations for the phenomenon based on the terms and concepts usedby the young learners (Harlen, 2000).For instance, children were allowed to explore the reality of growingplants through the acquisition of first-hand knowledge in growing andtaking care of different tomato plants.The purpose of elaboration lies within its ability to accrue learnerswith opportunity to apply the acquired knowledge to new situationsculminating in a deeper understanding of the concept (Wenham, 2010).Acase in point as relates to learning in the school was when pupilsstudied the air resistance topic by performing experiments onparachutes. The children had the opportunity to apply acquiredknowledge by comparing parachutes descend under normal circumstancesand others descend with a punctured hole.
Finally,the evaluation process as described by Taber helps learners “reflect,review, and change their beliefs, skills and understanding thusencouraging their persuasion of science” (2014:442). Forinstance, the school’s learning process enabled the students toreflect, review, and enhance their persuasion of science by comparingoutcomes of having plants grow under different conditions- somewell-watered, some with compost manure, and some having access tolight and water. Thecartoon concept approach provides an alternative means of tacklingscience owing to the fact that the development of cartoon-styledrawings provides ideas in an appealing and accessible format thattriggers the young learners mind (Devereux, 2000). It is a goodapproach to eliciting learners` ideas and acts as a stimulus toreflection on the attitude towards science (Walker, 2010).
Theexistence of science in the daily life is a motivation towardspursuing science as a career. The availability of observationequipment like the microscope, laboratory to carry out experimentsand the engagement in science experiments on regular basisdemystifies the perceived difficulty of science subject (Pace, 2000). As suggested by Devereux, “different clubs based on science alsobuild the learners interest in science as they unconsciously engagein scientific methods in their experiments” (2000:72). The routinekeeps them geared towards understanding of different concepts andexploring different concepts and phenomenon (Wenham, 2010).
Beingin the know-how of the latest discoveries in the scientific fieldsoften makes the learners feel part of the science community. Thesebuild their morale ant the urge to discover on their own newdiscoveries also acquaint them with up-to-date occurrences adding totheir knowledge (Taber, 2014). Suchis the case when apprentices engaged in the parachute experimentswhile learning more about air resistance.
Whatis expected of the teachers (Roden& Archer, 2014)?
Masteryof the subject content of science
Theteachers need to understand the nature of science, the process ofplanning, carrying out and evaluation of scientific phenomenon andthe need for precise and clear communication forms (Roden& Archer, 2014).As suggested by Cameron and McKay, “the mastery also involveshealth and safety measures, life processes of organisms, physicalprocesses and material and their properties” (2010:63). Backgroundknowledge, expertise and experience are a basis for impartingin-depth and relevant knowledge to the learners (Jansen,1995).
Adherenceto the National Curriculum
Thecurriculum is organized to suit the four key stages of learners’development and the programmes include science that they should betaught, attainment targets and gauging the learners’ performance(Gordon,1986).The scientific enquiry on ideas and evidence, life processes ofplants and organisms, material and their properties and physicalprocesses are the programmes to be taught on the early development oflearners (Rose,2009).
Itis expected of teachers to possess knowledge of different fields andissues that govern the learning process and attainment of fulfillingeducational system for the children (Harlen,2000).According to Smith,forsuccessful teaching process the knowledge should circulate thefollowing (2014):
Content knowledge- teachers ought to be well versed with knowledge of science and of science to contribute adequately to the children understanding of the universally held scientific views.
The general pedagogical knowledge that requires the teacher to familiarize with classroom management and organization that goes above the subject matter.
Curriculum knowledge as a teacher is in the know of the relevant guidelines of teaching, the national requirements on science learning and the materials available to facilitate the learning process.
A teacher ought to have pedagogical content knowledge about how to teach different science topics, an inclusion of useful and relevant illustrations and examples.
Fostering learning in a classroom also involves having knowledge about the learners and their characteristics. This help caters for the different needs, interests and learning pace.
Learning and teaching usually drive at the attainment of educational goals, values, purpose and knowledge on the philosophy and history of education in general.
Science-specifictraining, seminars and conferences expose teachers to differentcreative approaches to science teaching rather than the formulaiccurriculum that only corrupt the learners mind towards exampreparation (Roden&Archer, 2014).Seminars and training provide knowledge to be used for encouragingyoung learners to participate in proper academic qualificationsrather than vocational qualifications (Skamp,2007).
Researchis an integral part of learning and teaching in Primary level toensure boredom is done away with (Skamp,2007).Teachers engage in it to improve classroom practice, as acontribution to an understanding of the knowledge base of teachers,as a strategy for broader change in the school and as a source ofknowledge for teacher professional development (Luce& HSI, 2014).Moreover, Walker asserts that “engaging in research enablesteachers to plan and teach effectively, encouraged collaborationamong teachers, helps them make an informed professional judgement,and it enhances their understanding, knowledge and skills”(2010:102). Research also enhances teachers’ commitment to work andself-esteem resulting in improved students learning and achievement.
Designinga better curriculum
Recentstudy efforts by Smith have enlightened that “the nationalcurriculum is usually overprescribed and loaded with content thatpractically are hard to attain” (2014:421). Time constraintsinhibit in-depth teaching and learners consolidating on theireducation (Rose,2009).There is a need for reduction of the overload and prescribedcurriculum and focus on review of the programmes to translate togreater flexibility. These ensure that individual needs of thelearners are met and the development of prior learning.
Theintroduction of manageable curriculum without loss of challengebenefits the learners in that they have an entitlement to skills,knowledge, and understanding of the subject through the earlydevelopment (Sharp& Byrne, 2007).The manageable curriculum provides for a more integrated and simplerframework that focuses on personal development (Byrne& Brodie, 2012).The curriculum is also designed to ensure its progression withopportunities that allow the learners to employ the acquired skillsconfidently in their daily lives.
Sciencefocus is essential but inadequate in bringing out skilled andall-round learners (Byrne& Brodie, 2012).As Rose contends, “the enthusiasm of science can be maintained byengaging in learning activities such as Information and CommunicationTechnology, understanding mathematics, communication, and languages,understanding arts and physical development and health” (2009:39).These make the interrelation of science and other varied fields andmaintain the enthusiasm of science (Cross&Board, 2015).
Useof Information and Communication Technology
Thetechnological development is as a result of scientific discoveriesand they also enhance science (Cross&Board, 2015).Use of ICT complements the practical and theoretical approach toscience and enhances observation, collection of data, and testing ofideas through different models and simulations (Cross&Board, 2015). Web sites that give information on the discoveries made, thepossible impossibilities and the science projects to engagecontributes to well-versed learners enthusiastic to learn more.
Thereis no science of teaching science (Eshach, 2006). Therefore, alively, intelligible and interesting class depends on the teacher’screativity and ideas (Kelly& Stead, 2013).Making science exciting and fun in the classroom will involve:
Puttingscience into context
Scientificknowledge presentation appears impersonal, dry and detached and thusa need to focus on forceful conceptualization (Sherrington, 2002).For learners to be interested, teachers must thus creatively providethe characters behind the theories, facts and formulas to make itfeel real (Richards& Conner, 1990).The alternative theories that are correlating with the subject matterhelp learners attain the different perspectives and understanding ofscience (Ward,2005).
Makinga fizz by carrying out the chemistry experiments that demonstratecolor and reactions make the process fun and elicit discussions amonglearners. Experiments that involve ingredients that they are familiarwith according to age and class help them understand the differentconcepts of science (Richards& Conner, 1990).According to Taber, sprinkling science with amazing facts also getsthe learners to “read the science books and actively engage in theexperiments, to include facts and information that captures theirattention and surprises them” (2014:443). Finding science in thereal life through an exploration of renewable energy and technology,with the fluctuating gas prices, the future of the learners is atstake, and is an opportunity to explore the alternative renewablesources of energy that will fuel their future (Cameron& McKay, 2010).Moreover, the solar, plant, electrochemical and wind energy are thealternative sources of energy that can be harvested in a powerhousecreated by the learners (Ward,2005).The building of solar dependent oven or water pump brings thepractical aspect of science.
Learners’participation by making it hands-on- to ensure that learners gainexperience and knowledge, they should observe the processes of anexperiment (Cameron& McKay, 2010).The development process of plants and the life cycle of the insectsfascinate the learners as they learn. With the learners engage in theplanning, carrying out experiments and investigations aid in theirdevelopment of scientific knowledge and trigger their ideas toexplore the field more (Ward,2005).
Theissues that interest and affect the learners are platforms to nurturescientists. Health issues like the demonstration on the sources andeffects of germs generate ideas on keeping healthy (Sherrington,2002).The weather, the packaging materials, wrappings and waste materialelicit ideas and knowledge on environmental health and weatherstudies. The daily life forms part of the scientific experimentationand understanding. Encouraging the learners to work independentlywithout assuming the impact and purpose group work help the learnerdevelop individual manipulative skills in practical assignments(Sherrington,2002).
Asa teacher, use study guides and reading assignments as well astalking to them about the concepts makes science fascinating(Whitebread,2000).The teaching of every concept also inspires the learners to embracescience and related careers. The teachers should be actively involvedin the concept understanding and knowledge acquisition by the student(Williams & Cliffe, 2011).
Thewillingness to participate in different projects depends on theteacher`s attitude towards the subject and the comments made on theimprovements and mistakes done (Williams & Cliffe, 2011).Maintaining an encouraging tone, optimistic sentences and motivatingcomments keeps the morale of the learners alive and undeterred withthe errors made during the learning process (Eshach,2006).The emotional reaction of learners to the experiments and conceptsare to be followed by supportive actions that will help them embracescience as an interesting subject. Negativity or discouragingcomments push the learners to other alternative courses and theperception of science as difficult stands.
Scienceis a powerful field that has generated knowledge and has addressedcrucial matters in life. However, the field has limits. Science doesnot make moral or aesthetic judgements rather the scientific researchinfluences the decisions made Wenham, M. (2010). Science also doesnot come with instructions on how to use the scientific knowledge andit neither draws conclusions on the supernatural explanations thatare beyond the realm of nature (Eshach,2006).To enable young learners, therefore, grasp the concept of scienceknowledge and maintain interest in the same is a hard jobs but easilydone if the teacher has the quality and the abilities to teachscience.
Learnersin the school have experienced a few inspirational teachings inscience. These included a melting chocolate experiment which showeddifferent states of matter in chocolate. This also was a crosscurricular topic in literacy descriptive writing in which childrenhad to describe how different chocolate types feels , tastes , smellsand how it sounds while chewing e.g. crunchiness.
Anotherinteresting topic was moon landing where children made moon buggiesas well as a science experiment about what plants need in order togrow. In the latter, the learners used four different tomato plants.One was covered to avoid sunlight and was never watered, one wascovered and watered, and we added some compost manure in one pluswater and covered it too, but the last one we added compost manure,watered it and kept it in a place with natural light. The pupils hadto see the plants after every 2 days and at the same time water theplants. At the end of this experiment children fully understood thetopic. It`s always of benefit to pupils when they get to engage inpractical lessons whilst learning science. For instance, Students inthe school engaged in a melting chocolate experiment which showeddifferent states of matter in chocolate
Anothertopic was parachute making in air resistance topic. In the course oflearning this topic, students performed an experiment on theparachutes whether they will descend slowly to the ground giving theweight a comfortable landing. On releasing the parachute the weightpulled down on the strings and opened up a material that uses airresistance to slow it down. The larger the surface area the more airresistance and the slower the parachute will drop.
Cuttinga small hole in the middle of the parachute will allow air to slowlypass through it rather than spilling out over one side, this shouldhelp the parachute fall straighter.
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