Science is not just a list of facts to be pounded into the heads of students. It is a functional understanding of concepts, principles, skills, a set of attitudes, appreciations and interests. The purpose which runs through and strengthens all other educational purposes the common thread of education is the development of the ability to think. The is the central purpose to which the school must be oriented if it is to accomplish either its traditional tasks or those newly accentuated by recent changes in the world.
This unit will concern itself with methods and techniques that will foster a development of the students’ ability to think creatively and solve problems using an inquiry (hands on) approach together with the traditional textbook method.
A primary concern of a teacher is to help children develop the ability to solve problems in such a manner that each individual has the opportunity to share his or her ideas. Thus, each child feels that they have made a worthwhile contribution. Prior experience has taught me that reading chapters, answering questions, testing and putting on demonstrations has left me feeling uneasy about whether I have truly stimulated each child to his fullest potential. This textbook approach does not, obviously, work for all students. Frustration has led me to seek out alternate ways. At this point in my career, I feel I have been exposed to the curriculum objectives to a point where I feel competent enough to take a different course. I trust myself and the children to let go of the security of the textbook and allow the children to explore the environment which this unit will concern itself with.
Let’s use the natural curiosity that we all have as a motivating tool. This can only be accomplished by embellishing the classroom with as many opportunities as possible. To begin this process, it is necessary for a teacher to use what is available in the physical environment. My classroom is basically small and actual “hands on” units are limited but available. I have taken inventory of the materials available and decided to change my approach. Availability of materials within the room is primary to my design. What does this mean? The plan is as follows: The room will be arranged in different sections. Previously, I mentioned using what we have available in our school system. Many of you probably have used these units at one time or another. Before I list them, I shall clarify my objectives.
Instead of starting the year by having books assigned to each student, I plan to outline with the students the entire curriculum for the year. These include: Physical Sciences; Electricity and Magnetism; Meteorology; Energy. These are the content areas. Normally I would have planned my year sequentially regarding the previous areas. Instead the following prepared units and materials will be available around the room. They include; Attribute Games and Problems; Peas and Particles; Kitchen Physics; Crystal Unit; Mirror Cards; Energy Sleuth; Electricity and Magnetism (SCIS). Some of these units are curriculum oriented. Others involve the process of classifying, estimating, patterning and mapping, but all involve the “hands on” approach. Each unit will be briefly described and materials can be brought in by students themselves which will be presented in basically two to three stages all coinciding with the school calendar.
The first stage will be from September to December and will concern itself with the introduction of the aforementioned units in 3-4 week segments. It is my intent to introduce each unit to a point where it can be continued by choice of each student whenever they choose. After this period of introduction it is now up to the student and/or partner to make a commitment, a signed contract, if you will, stating that the student will continue until completed, one unit at a time or, if feasible, two units weekly as time permits. Be flexible. Keeping in mind these units lend themselves to excellent creative “hands on” homework assignments that allow
and every student the opportunity to relate to us the meaningful experiences that are drawn from their own personal lives.
This unit under discussion is expected to be a year long process. During the month of September all units to be utilized during the first half of the year will be introduced and reviewed. Each unit will be described and discussed. Over each area the child, as a part of opening year activities, will construct and label each section by name with a list of all materials that they can bring in, placing the items in the appropriate areas. This will be an ongoing procedure from September to December. By Christmas break, all materials will have been assembled and in view.
Before I begin the process of how I plan to introduce and actually involve the classes, let me mention that my long range goal is to inter-relate the content areas with the inquiry kits and lead the students to a discovery of how a scientist works. Teaching by inquiry involves opportunities that emphasize identifying problems, observing, measuring, classifying, inferring, predicting or making hypothesis, discovering meaningful patterns, designing experiments, interpreting and analyzing data and verifying.
A fundamental aspect of the inquiry discovery method is that it focuses on problems, developing the ability to define and probe for diverse answers and not one correct answer. Questions are stressed rather than answers in order to arouse interest for evaluation, to develop insight and critical thinking.
The major objective of the inquiry method is to develop a cooperative experience in which the child is encouraged to explore, experience and discover facts, generalization and technique.
Now the process begins. The first stage will involve a time period from September to December which is approximately 12 weeks. This stage will involve introducing to the entire class the Attribute Games and Problems. Basically this is a non-content unit which provides an opportunity for the children to deal with problems of classification and the relationship between classes. (The kinds of problems worked on lend themselves to applications in many curriculum areas, i.e., science, social studies, math or wherever classification and dealing with relations between classes are called for.) The same colorful material (A Blocks, Color Cubes, People Pieces, colored loops, stickers, label cards) are used, though in different ways from K-9 and beyond. Equipment: Three kinds of blocks, loops; printed matter, problem cards and geometric stickers. This unit is available in total from the Science Department. (See Mr. Conti)
The best procedure could be to pair off the class and have each pair responsible for note keeping. While one reads, the other constructs. Alternating roles ensures that both partners will actively participate. Also, a slow reader should be placed with a more competent reader. The teacher role is significant in the fact that he or she must actively get involved with each pair, going from pair to pair,
and asking significant, stimulating questions, checking for mastery of basic concepts. (It is advised that the teacher take the games home and work them out....It’s a good parlor game.) This allows the teacher to become part of the process and helps him learn more about each student through a direct individual encounter. Class discussion once a week is encouraged. Notebooks will be kept and checked periodically.
This introduction and manipulation is expected to last three to four weeks. The purpose is to familiarize the class with the kit. The unit itself can be extended throughout the year, on an alternating schedule. It can also be used once a week or whenever the student completes class assignments. They can also be assigned as homework.
Now we put the Attributes back to the assigned section. Weeks 5-6 will concentrate on the Peas and Particles Unit, where the children deal informally with estimation and large numbers in ways that may be new to them. They answer questions How many? How big? How far away? not with worksheet or math test precision, but as we tend to answer questions ordinarily with estimates and “educated” guesses. Children are ingenious when it comes to thinking of methods of counting and estimating large numbers.
How important is rounding off? When is an exact answer needed? These are some of the questions that children discuss in their work with
Peas and Particles
. Equipment: rice, peas, beans, balls, containers (Jars), printed matter, guide picture packet. The entire unit is again flexible but should take anywhere from 12-15 teaching periods. Again, this is just an introductory stage and at this point is not intended to be completed. Materials and procedure can be found in the manual. After the 2-3 week introduction, the unit is returned to the specified area. It is not my intent to describe any or all units in detail. It is suggested that the manual will give sufficient direction.
The next two units to be described are a little more difficult to physically arrange since they each involve household chemicals, microscopes, solutions, balance, etc. Therefore, extra care and extensive preparation should take precedence. Both units are content oriented and can be easily correlated with the textbook content areas.
is a unit in which the student examines liquids how—they form drops and puddles; how they fall and break up; how fast they flow through various sized openings; how they heap up, are absorbed, evaporate, mix and dissolve. The child assembles and uses simple equipment, such as a balance which he then modifies for use as a tensiometer.
This is another excellent unit which literally captivates the student’s interest beyond imagination. Again I remind you to trust the process. Don’t be afraid of the apparent chaos. The teacher is required to make all equipment available prior to work. Children can work alone, in pairs or in groups. Again records are kept in notebooks drawings, diagrams, etc. This unit as well as others, takes into account the individual differences and allows for each student to work at his/her own rate. This unit is equipped with prepared lessons which are used as a catalyst for pupil self-discoveries.
allows the student to observe with a microscope such simple crystals as salt, sugar, cream of tartar, and other chemicals which are listed in detail. They observe the crystalline structure and make comparisons, culminating in the creation of several diverse crystals.
The basic problem posed by these cards is one of matching, by means of a mirror, a pattern on one card with a pattern shown on another card. The children find the colors and shapes on the cards pleasing and fun to work with. They enjoy the challenge presented and require little supervision from the teacher. Equipment: cards (twenty-one different sets), four mirrors, guide, printed matter.
are a set of unfinished hardwood blocks small enough to be used on school desks. They come in a wide range of shapes and sizes that make possible a great variety of structures and designs, both simple and complex. The blocks are related to one another in volume and all but three can be made up from the smaller blocks in a set. When a child runs out of large blocks, he can match them with combinations of smaller ones, thus gaining a sense of volume, equivalents. Equipment: 330 blocks, cards, guide.
Electricity and Magnetism
This unit is a conglomeration of SCIS is, a montage of batteries, magnets, electronic kits, wires, etc.; anything that can produce electricity from magnets, lemon juice, etc.
SCIS (Science Curriculum Improvement Study) at the sixth year level allows the children to investigate the exchange of matter and energy. Activities are directed toward increasing the children’s understanding of electrical and magnetic phenomena at the level of concrete experiences and at the level of abstract thought. This is a content unit to be used to stimulate research using textbooks, library books, etc.
At this point in the year, we should have completed the introductory stage. The children should be properly motivated and should have chosen the unit they plan to carry to completion. Now we come to a period of integration and transition. We can’t forget the content areas. It’s now about January and we’re ready to carry over the newly developed inquiry attitude to the books.
After activity card examples are presented children will write out problems which will be used as a free activity. There are literally hundreds of methods and activities that can enhance the textbook or be used as an extension or application of the textbook concepts and skills. I will list as many as space permits, give you a few good sources (bibliography) and try to include a sample of a few concepts and how you can prepare or have children prepare.
Now that the child has been encouraged to explore and discover facts, an additional project can be initiated within the content area by a method called the “discovery episode”. The objective is to stimulate thinking. As a result of the experience of using kits, the children will be able to create additional learning centers relevant to the content areas.
Basically a child-created learning center should provide additional opportunities for individuals to explore and create. What is a learning center? It is an area which contains a collection of activities and materials to teach, reinforce and/or enrich a skill or concept. Every learning center should contain multimedia materials (slides, filmstrips, books, records) and manipulative material for exploration and discovery.
The procedure for a learning center:
1. Select a subject area.
2. Determine the skill or concept to be taught, reinforced or enriched.
Ex. To reinforce the concept that air has weight which exerts pressure.
3. Develop the skill or concept into a learning activity by experimenting (observing, charting, keeping a log) listening or viewing.
Ex. Students will learn about pressure (volume) by observing a can crushing and utilize the discovery episode as a means to stimulate discussion and integrate the related concepts (see plan).
4. Prepare the skill or concept into an applying center which can include prepared (teacher or student) lessons which may be filled in; arranging in order; putting together (diagram); taking apart; listing; classifying; matching; writing or labeling.
Ex. Students will apply the pressure concepts after participating in the episode by writing down their observations with an explanation of what they think the results were or arrange in order the proper sequence, etc.
5. Incorporate the skill or concept into an extending activity by comparing, developing their own demonstration, researching, reconstructing, finding what others think or deciding “what if” situations.
Ex. Students will extend the concept of pressure by finding other examples in which objects depend on air pressure (tornadoes, plane flights, etc.)
6. Place all the games, worksheets, charts, etc. in one area.