“Why?” Inspiring curiosity.

Science was one of those subjects I fell out of love with for a period of time.  like many people, I learn best when doing.  Primary science was intriguing and sparked my curiosity and excitement.  I was a naturally curious child and my mother would tell me later that my constant questions drove her to distraction.

“Why do you have to cook food before you eat it?” “Why does the sun go to bed at night?” “How does the egg cook with it’s shell still on?” “Is steam the same as smoke?”

My poor mother would patiently answer my questions, explaining things in great detail.  I was like a sponge and the world was a giant pond.  I was always asking questions and trying to absorb as much information as possible.  This was the case right up until my third year at secondary school.  I was told I had to pick one area of science so I chose biology.  My Grandfather grew all of his own fruit and vegetables and had an amazingly colourful garden.  All these plants grew so differently and at different times of the year.  It fascinated me and I wanted to know how and why these things happened.

I had an idea of what we would be covering but not a clue about how it would be taught.  I was sadly disappointed.  Workbook after workbook was presented to me throughout those two years.  I memorised the definition for diffusion, purely because I was told to write it out 50 times as a punishment for not being able to tell my teacher when asked one day.

Diffusion is a movement of molecules from a region of high concentration to a region of low concentration down a concentrated gradient.

I now know what this actually means and how to apply it to every day life but at the time it meant absolutely nothing to me.  This was rote learning at it’s finest.  I passed my exams and never thought about science or biology much from then on.

A few years ago that suddenly changed.  I was flicking through the channels and came across three large hairy men blowing things up in the middle of a deserted field.  They were testing out a theory with a mobile phone, a car and a large tank of petrol.  They wanted to know if using your mobile phone in a fuel station would in fact cause an explosion.  I was hooked! Mythbusters reignited my curiosity as they attempted to spark and ignite this little wreck of a car whilst standing several feet away.  I suddenly remembered my favourite TV show as a child “How 2” and all my curiosity and questions.  Here is a video link if you wish to see exactly how I was inspired as a child. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30jHkF6qUo4 

Curriculum for Excellence promotes active and cross curricular learning.  It is also not about learning facts but skills.  This has completely changed the way in which we teach science in schools as I discovered whilst on placement last year.  I watched primary six children making security lights and alarms using circuit boards.  There was context there and they were working as a team collaboratively.  There was no workbook on the table and no worksheets to fill out.  This was purely a practical lesson and I enjoyed every second of observing them.  When  I spoke to them they were all so enthusiastic and keen to try and complete the task.  This was the complete opposite of rote learning.  a week later they did the same task again and they knew exactly what to do.  They knew why things had to be  connected a certain way and were able to tell me instead of “Just because it is.” or “That was how we were told to do it”.

I hope that I can become the kind of teacher that inspires and ignites curiosity in my pupils.  For that I need to make sure that I myself know “why” and “how”.  It is not simply acceptable that I be one step ahead with memorised notes from a textbook.  I need to have a depth of knowledge on a subject so that I can differentiate within the class and explain and demonstrate things in  several different ways so that I meet the needs of every child in my class.

I have completed an audit of my knowledge and what has become apparent is that I have a good breadth of knowledge but very little depth.  I plan to take one area at a time and develop my knowledge further so that I can ensure the pupils in my class have the best experience possible.  I have attached the audit below and will review this every semester to allow for continuous development throughout my time at university.

Teaching primary science knowledge audit

 

CfE science topic/sub organiser What is this actually about?
Biodiversity Recognising the relationship between living beings and plants and realising how they depend on each other to survive and grow e.g. the environment, the food chain, how animals/plants/humans have changed in the past and develop now.  Being able to distinguish between a living and non-living thing.  How to take care of, protect and preserve living things.
Interdependence Recognising the relationship between living beings and plants and realising how they depend on each other to survive and grow e.g. the environment, the food chain, how animals/plants/humans have changed in the past and develop now.  Being able to distinguish between a living and non-living thing.  How to take care of, protect and preserve living things.
Energy sources How things are powered to do what they are designed to do.  Where different energy comes from e.g. the sun, wind, water etc. etc.
Sustainability The benefits and risks involved when using different energy sources and their impact on the environment e.g. renewable energy.
Process of the planet Examining the way the earth changes due to natural influences e.g. water, heat, climate changes and also how humans affect the way in which the earth’s environment has changed.  E.g. evaporation, melting, condensing to water etc.
Space Recognising the sun, moon stars, other planets and the patters in which they move and revolve to create the concept of time and date.  Realising life beyond Earth.
Forces Understanding concepts such as friction, speed and impact and predicting possible results of these forces.
Electricity Understanding the dangers and safety required when using electricity.  Understanding how electricity is conducted and grounded through various materials.  How electricity can be created.
Vibrations and waves Looking at how light sound and radiation travels.  Exploring the relationship between different vibrations producing different sounds.  How different waves are used in the environment egg in MRI machines in hospitals.
Body systems and cells

 

Functions of the body e.g. the digestive system, the heart and how blood is pumped around the body.  The lungs putting oxygen into the body and what we need that for.  Recognising different body parts and their purpose along with the human senses and what we use them for.  How to keep a body healthy and knowing what can be harmful to our bodies.
Inheritance Looking at the similarities and differences between individuals both physical and in other ways e.g. personality.  Looking at the role of DNA and genetic traits that can be passes through generations.  Discussing the implications of genetic testing from an ethical and moral perspective.
Properties of substances Looking at the properties of different materials and the potential uses for these.  Understanding the properties in e.g. water and how they react in different situations.
Uses of substances Looking at the properties of different materials and the potential uses for these.  Understanding the properties in e.g. water and how they react in different situations.
Earth’s materials Developing knowledge and understanding of Earth’s natural resources and materials and how they can be extracted and used.
Chemical changes Looking at the chemical changing process within the environment and how chemicals react in different scenarios.
Topical science Looking at how science is portrayed in the media and how science relates to the world around them and in social situations morally and ethically.

 

My areas for development (SMART targets to be added to ePortfolio):

I want to gain more confidence in the area of space.  At the moment I don’t even know what order the planets are from the sun.  I will use online resources and look up places to visit to gain knowledge and confidence in this area.

My goal for this year is to be able to comfortably plan short group lessons for Early, first and second stages of the experience sand outcomes in one area of science.  By doing this on placement and asking for feedback from the class teacher, I will know where I need to develop further and where my strengths are.

 

3 thoughts on ““Why?” Inspiring curiosity.

  1. Richard Holme

    Hello Claire,
    Really enjoyed this post. It is great to see how enthusiastic you are about science and teaching it. Watching the episode of How2 took me back to my own school days! And I’m sure some of the demonstrations could really be used in classes now. I think I’ll share this with other students too.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas.
    Richard

    Reply
  2. Carrie McLennan

    Claire, it is great to see you engaging with this revised form of the eP. You have thought deeply about your connection with science and it is good to see you establish a plan to develop your knowledge base.

    Reply
  3. Lauren Boath

    This is a really interesting read, particularly to hear your own journey with science. Great to hear that you saw some quality science and approaches in a school you were in, especially with respect to physics, and that you’re inspired to inspire! Do you have any thoughts on where you will go to support you in developing the depth of understanding in sciences? Have you come across any resources in particular which you have found really helpful or are you just starting out on the journey?

    Reply

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