Monday, October 4, 2010

Science for Kids

People are unique in the animal kingdom in that knowledge is passed from one generation to the next by recorded culture. People can explore, invent, experiment, record, accumulate knowledge and pass on this recorded knowledge to help them better exploit their environment and make sense of life, thus increasing their chances of success. Mastery of accumulated knowledge over generations requires intentional learning, invariably in a formal educational setting. And this is no different to primary school education. The more advanced concepts in science such as electricity, photosynthesis, chemical reactions would definitely fall into the category of recorded culture. Some of these subjects are beyond the daily experience of young learners, with no instantly recognisable markers to create a quick understanding. The role of the teacher is often creating a bridge to the youngsters' world through analogies with which they are familiar.
Students may come to the classroom with preconceived notions of how the world around them works and if their initial understanding is not engaged, they fail to grasp the basic concepts. They may take on board the new information superficially or they may learn for the purposes of a test, but revert to their preconceptions outside the classroom.
The images from a children's story, Fish is Fish, can help convey the essence of the above principles. In this story a young fish is very curious about the outside world and his good friend the frog returns from the land, telling the fish excitedly.
'I've been about the world, hopping here and there and seeing extraordinary things'.
'Like what?' asked the fish.

'Birds', said the frog mysteriously.
'Birds!' and he described birds to the fish, with wings that could fly in the sky, with two legs and many colours. As the frog talked, his friend visualised birds flying through the sky with wings, fish heads and bodies covered in scales.
Clearly all new understandings are based on a foundation of existing knowledge and experience and the younger the child, the narrower the foundation tends to be. Understanding how children actively learn from the earliest days of life can help in education strategies when at school. Research studies have demonstrated that infants as young as 3 to 4 months develop an understanding and expectations of the physical world. For example, by repeatedly throwing objects from their cot they understand that objects need support to prevent them falling to the ground; that stationary objects need a force applied to them to move; and the direction of that force will determine the direction of motion.
Young minds are easily distracted and have short attention spans. The trick is to get them engaged in whatever way possible, such as group activity, experiments they can perform or design themselves, or field trips where there is a high degree of self-participation. This will imitate the ways of learning of a toddler, such as discovering gravity by repeatedly throwing objects out of a cot. In turn, that knowledge could eventually become the students' understanding of Newtonian physics theory. In the longer term, as that person develops yet further layers of understanding can be built on that base, be it Astro-physics, relativity theory, or quantum mechanics.

(about writter)
By:-Hannah McCarthy


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