Science educator Brigitte Glasson explains why her latest curriculum resources encourage learning by doing.
Kids rolling cans down a ramp, making marbles collide, seeing if they can really protect an egg dropped from a height – science learning is fun and memorable when it gets hands-on.
Science educator Brigitte Glasson wants primary and secondary teachers to rediscover this for themselves via Science in Motion, a new Year 1-10 curriculum series available on the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Education Portal.
“I work with teachers to ignite or reignite their passion and drive for teaching science to New Zealand’s students,” says Brigitte.
“And I’m a passionate believer in hands-on learning especially in science. It just seems to make sense. If you are doing something you have more connection to it. You are likely to remember that experience and that knowledge more deeply than if you just watch a YouTube clip or read something.”
So, teachers, it is time to dig around the maths shelf for marbles and pop into the PE shed for a hula hoop or three.
Science in Motion covers concepts such as gravity and friction, and movement, forces and energy. Materials are simple things that teachers in any school can likely find close to hand. Printable activity sheets provide students with clear instructions, tables to recording their findings and questions to provoke reflective thinking and discussion.
Brigitte says each session has its own webpage with curriculum links, both to science concepts and the nature of science strand. Suggested learning objectives make planning easy.
The science capabilities also feature. Each session includes questions and activities to not only develop students’ science capabilities, but also to help teachers measure student progress in this regard.
“It’s about setting the teacher up for success, because then the students get more out of it and the teacher will be motivated to do more,” she says.
“For example, it can be hard to write learning objectives that are achievable for students and relate to the content being taught, so we provide that.”
Science makes sense of the world we live in, says Brigitte. For example, to make sensible decisions about riding your bicycle, it’s really handy to know a little about gravity and friction first. This series of investigations does this, by giving students opportunities to apply knowledge and make connections to real life uses.
The activities are scaffolded so students explore science fundamentals with marbles and cans on ramps before building up towards real world contexts such as the design of cycle helmets and the crumple zones of modern cars.
“If you just started with a challenge to design a cycle helmet and you didn’t have an appreciation of those earlier concepts, you would get a lot of weird and wonderful responses and no doubt they would be creative. But are they based on how life really works, are they based on anything fruitful?”
Ultimately, she says engaging science learning that starts in the primary years sets up students for the societal participation envisioned by the New Zealand Curriculum.
“It’s trying to develop a population of people who are able to participate as critical, informed citizens, able to make sound decisions and are willing to play an active role.”
The Science in Motion series earned a recent shout-out on Twitter from Rolleston College head of science Carolyn Green, who says teachers always love good contextual resources.
Speaking later to the Education Portal, Carolyn says she was excited to discover the resources and is looking at how they may support lesson planning by her team.
"I know Brigitte Glasson from her other work with the Royal Society Science Teaching Leadership Programme and I know she is really good at doing things that help teachers with their understanding of the nature of science."