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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Experimentation in Science

We all are concerned that every school needs to provide opportunities where each child learns and happily engages in school level activities. This requires that the teaching-learning processes in each classroom must address the needs of all children- cognitive/ age appropriate curriculum, conducive and non threatening classroom environment, encouraging school based assessment and reporting practices in the school. If children find such learning environment they would be able to achieve more successfully. Thus there is a need to visualize their learning processes holistically rather than viewing child’s progress in isolation.
We all realize that children learn EVS when they are exposed to the real situations in their surroundings that help them construct, be aware, appreciate and get sensitized towards the environmental issues(natural, social and cultural) prevailing around. The learning process begins with the child’s immediate environment i.e. self and family in the early classes and moving on further to the wider environment beyond neighbourhood and community at large. NCF-2005 recommends following an integrated and thematic approach- towards its teaching learning at the primary stage. Thematic approach needs to be followed in EVS in early classes and gradually making efforts to make them understand the issues and concerns related to natural and social environment in class V and onwards.
Efforts need to be made to avoid giving direct information, definitions and descriptions as children construct their own knowledge using varied teaching and assessment strategies. However, this requires ensuring their active engagement participation in learning by exposing them to diverse experiences through a variety of sources within and outside the classrooms. According to their varied potential we all agree that assessment is carried out simultaneously i.e. during teaching learning and in natural setting. It allows us to identify the learning gaps and modify teaching-learning processes to suit the needs of all children. This would also help to provide timely feedback to the children to improve her/his future learning. The learning situations need to include a variety where children get the opportunities ensuring each child’s(including the differently abled and the disadvantaged children) participation to observe, express, discuss, question, critically think, improvise, analyze- etc.While organizing the Teaching-Learning of EVS, the following pedagogical principles need to be kept in view:
·         Each child is unique and has strengths and weaknesses. Children learn and progress at different pace and style. Some children learn best visually, some by questioning, some others by describing and observing, accordingly opportunities need to be given to get exposed to various situations.
·          Active participation of children is crucial in constructing knowledge, using environment as a learning resource that would provide meaningful learning as it would relate the child’s local knowledge with the school knowledge.
A teacher needs to encourage learning beyond four walls of the classroom and provide wider perspective of the environment around her/him. Visuals play a major role in EVS learning. Reading of visuals not only provides joy and ethos of writing material that develops critical thinking and analyzing skills but also supplement the text to reduce the content load.
students can go out to study rocks
Learning beyond the four walls of school

Picture reading activities in group with peers improves social interaction and provides more opportunities for construction of knowledge. Care needs to be taken to adopt these visuals for children with visual difficulties.difficult learning must find suitable ways to sensitize the children to the wide differences that exist within our society relating to gender discrimination, children with marginalized groups, and differently abled children, the elderly and the sick.
Children enjoy and learn more with hands-on activities i.e. creating materials with locally available material draw picture of their choice, art/ craft activities. Children are very happy and respond with enthusiasm when their creative ventures are appreciated rather than being rejected or left unnoticed, as unimportant by elders.
      Each child has an innate capacity to learn about things owing to the experiences and the information available to him/her. The child constructs new meanings based on previous knowledge and builds upon his/ her understanding. Also, all the children do not learn in a uniform manner. However, children’s unique ways of thinking and learning can become an opportunity as a Learning resource in a classroom. Different children’s experiences can serve as the beginning to explore multiple facets of ideas in the lesson. Sharing ideas and insights amongst peers provide for rich ‘scaffolding’ opportunities, rather than arrive at a ‘right’ answer.
For the teachers of Environmental Studies the practical work is part and parcel of what teaching and learning in the Environmental Science is all about. In fact, it has been found that 13- to 14-year old students are more likely to spend their lesson time doing some or the other activities.  It is expected that teachers who teach this subject tend to adopt a more ‘hands-on ‘approach to their teaching.
In order to understand why we use practical activities, we must first consider what practical work in the Environmental Studies is. The National Curriculum Framework 2005 has laid sufficient stress on the need of “Hands on Experiments” in schools. The syllabi prescribed to be implemented at different stages have separate lists of probable activities that could be considered to be practical work. These fall into two broad categories –
 1.  Core activities: These include Investigations, laboratory procedures and techniques, and fieldwork. These ‘hands-on’ activities support the development of practical skills, and help to shape students’ understanding of scientific concepts and phenomena.
2. Directly related activities: Teacher demonstrations, experiencing phenomena, designing and planning investigations, analyzing results, and data analysis using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). These are closely related to the core activities and are either a key component of an investigation, or provide valuable first-hand experiences for students.

A range of activities were also identified which complement, but should not be a substitute for practical work. These complementary activities include science-related visits, surveys, presentations and role play, simulations including use of ICT, models and modelling, group discussion, and group text-based activities. They have an important role to play supporting practical work in developing understanding of the Concepts of Environmental Studies.