I believe that practical and contextual learning is a very important part of education, especially during science.
Whilst teaching in a Year 1 class I had the opportunity to teach the topic of carnivores, herbivores and omnivores in science. During this, children had the opportunity to be a naturalist, like David Attenborough, and try and find which faeces belonged to which animal by dissecting the fake faeces.
Children were using inquiry skills and were using a variety of other scientific skills throughout. All children found it extremely enjoyable and made great progress, applying the knowledge that they had used in previous lessons.
TARGET: Continue to use contextual learning.
I am a strong believer in hands on and practical science. I have seen for myself how it can engage and motivate children to investigate further and ask questions which help to develop their understanding.
In the final few weeks of the summer term, children planted beans as part of their science topic ‘Plants’. Children planted these themselves, cared for them and kept a diary, recording their observations of the bean as it grew over the weeks. I found that this was a great way for children to take responsibility for their work and you could see that the children had a sense of pride when their bean began to grow.
Even after the summer holidays I have received an update onthe beans (they could challenge Jack and the Beanstalk!!), showing a positive impact on the children’s attitudes towards learning and their development of understanding.
TARGET: To continue to include physical and hands on experiences and experiments with in science topics.
As part of our science major sessions we had the opportunity to deliver a workshop to local school children, based on the topic “Our Fragile Earth”. Children worked in small groups and visited the separate activities in the form of a carousel.
The activity that I ran was based on the effects that humans have on animals in their habitats, focusing specifically on the journey of a fish down a river and the pollution that it comes across.
The story was read to the children and at each stage they added substances, representing the pollutant, to the water. At the end of the activity, the foam fish was turned upside down and children were able to see the impact the pollution had on the fish.
This activity was aimed at KS1 children and allowed children to meet the observation ‘Working scientifically’ (DfE, 2013: 147) expectations. Children observed throughout the activity and were then able to use their observations to ‘suggest answers to questions’ (DfE, 2013:147).
Children worked collaboratively, discussing ideas and making suggestions. This encouraged children to challenge and defend their own and others opinions developing them both cognitively and socially.
TARGET: To use this activity within the classroom as a starter/plenary activity.
DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION, 2013. The National Curriculum in England. Key stages 1 and 2 Framework. London: The Department for Education.
In a recent science seminar we looked at how scientific skills can be developed through practical enquiries.
Enquiry skills include:
- Raising Questions
- Using Observations
- Planning and conducting investigations
- Interpreting evidence and drawing conclusions
- Communicating, reporting and reflecting
We can develop these enquiry skills by:
- Providing children with opportunities to encounter materials and phenomena first hand.
- Providing challenging tasks whilst also providing scaffold support.
- Teaching specific techniques needed for advancing skills.
- Helping Children to record their ideas in ways that support systematic working and review.
Working scientifically includes:
- Observing over time – Magic Flowers. Cut out a paper flower and fold the petals inwards. Place the flower in a tray of water and observe what happens. The paper absorbs the water up the petals causing the petals to drop and the flower to open.
- Pattern Seeking – Reaction Strips. Drop the strip and see how long it takes for your partner to catch the strip. See if the times get better or worse. Reaction times can be affected by many thing (e.g. tiredness, concentration etc.)
- Identifying, classifying and grouping – Animal Sort. Sort the animals in to groups. There are many ways in which animals can be sorted depending on your focus.
- Comparative and fair testing (controlled investigations) – Bubbles. Blowing bubbles. How do you make it a fair test? Same person would blow each time, at the same rate, same mixture of bubbles etc.
- Research using secondary sources.
It is important when teaching any science lesson that a working scientifically learning objective is included. This therefore allows the child to progress in both areas of science, developing their skills and knowledge.
Tuesday 28th June saw a fun filled day all based on Space at Morland Area C of E Primary School.
Being a teaching assistant at the school, I expected to just be helping one of the teachers with their activities. However I was soon volunteered by one of the teachers (who knew about my science specialism) to lead one of the sessions.
The day ran as a carousel with the children split into the three houses. There were three different sessions run by the teachers as well as an hour spent at the pop up Planetarium which visited the school. Each session lasted 1 hour and the groups of children were of mixed age (5-11 years). I took this in to account and when planning the activities I ensured that all children would benefit from effective teaching.
My session was based on the phases of the moon. I started by asking the children if they had seen the moon the night before. I then asked them what shape it was and if they could describe any other shapes that they had seen the moon before. Having done this, I asked the children if they knew why the moon changed shape. They were not aware of why and so I showed them a rap that taught the children the different phases of the moon as well as how this happens. The rap reinforced my teaching and enabled me to eliminate any misconceptions that children had (the rap is available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBc8QHSsFgE) . This was enjoyed by all children and they were then fully engaged and encouraged to take part in creating the phases of the moon using Oreos. Having never worked with some of the children before I made it clear to them my behaviour expectations – especially when using the Oreos! Children worked in mixed age and abilities to create these and once completed I then assessed that the children understood the names of the different phases of the moon by having a quick quiz and asking the children the name of the phase. I knew that this may not last the full hour with some groups and therefore had prepared for children to discuss and design a new space suit for Tim Peake. As a group we talked about what Tim would need to survive in space and then allowed children to add extras and make the suit look exciting rather than being plain white.
The children seemed to thoroughly enjoy my session and their achievements through the day were relayed to parents through the school’s Twitter Account as well as speaking to parents at the end of the day.