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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Purpose of experimentation in schools

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Most practitioners would agree that good quality practical work can engage students, help them to develop important skills, help them to understand the process of scientific investigation, and develop their understanding of concepts. A further consequence of experiencing practical work, particularly in chemistry, is the acquisition of an understanding of hazard, risk and safe working. These are just some of the many different reasons for choosing to use a practical activity in a lesson.
The Framework for practical Environmental Studies in schools also identifies a multitude of ways in which practical work can support learning in this subject, from ‘Personal, learning and thinking skills’ to ‘How the Environmental Studies work’. Any single activity might focus on one or more of these purposes.
A good practical task is one that achieves its aims of effectively communicating a clearly defined set of ideas, but this can sometimes be difficult to achieve. Teachers’ identified outcomes can often be quite different from the outcomes that students perceive.
Hands-on, brains-on
Really effective practical activities enable students to build a bridge between what they can see and handle (hands-on) and scientific ideas that account for their observations (brains-on). Making these connections is challenging, so practical activities that make these links explicit are more likely to be successful (Millar, 2004).
In planning an activity, the task should be tailored to achieve the identified aims, for example through discussion between students. Allowing time for students to use the ideas associated with observed phenomena, rather than seeing the phenomena as an end in themselves, is vital if students are to make useful links.
Hands on Brains on
Plantation work by students

Improving practice
As part of the conduction of studies of Environment in schools, the National Curriculum Framework 2005 lays emphasis on projects and the practical works in Environmental Education along with conducting the same in other subjects- social sciences, mathematics and science. For the Practical Work in Environmental Studies, the government has led a new programme of professional development. For this the government has formed various Environment Monitoring Committees, and trained key resource persons to prepare resource persons at district levels who in turn supervise school activities and activities of the National Green Corps(NGCs) opened and funded by the government of India.
The programme is designed to support teachers, technicians and teaching assistants in improving the effectiveness of practical work through using, tailoring and managing practical activities to meet particular aims. The aims of the programme are to improve the:
1. clarity of the learning outcomes associated with practical work;
2. effectiveness and impact of the practical work;
3. sustainability of this approach for ongoing improvements
4. Quality rather than the quantity of practical work used.
      This programme aims to increase the quality rather than the quantity of timetabled practical work, unless a school feels that more practical work is needed. Bringing together the programme’s aims will develop teachers’ abilities to assess the way they teach practical science at all levels and increase their confidence in producing good-quality lessons for the benefit of the young people.
 How practical work supports the study of Environmental Science is shown through following diagram-
There are many educational strategies to achieve learning objectives to prepare students to adapt and survive more effectively in life. Many of these approaches involve, to some degree, practical learning experiences structured to emulate meaningful situations, tasks, and the problem solving required of the real world. In science, educators have long held and place particular importance in the idea that hands-on experiential activities are a fundamental tenet of learning.
The activities and Practical Works (including Projects) incorporate following –
1.      Project Works
2.      Educational Tours
3.      Environment Based Competitions
4.      Study of artificial ponds
5.      Horticultural practices in schools
6.      Seminar
7.      Discussion/ debate, and many more
   Project Works for students are certain assignments given to students by the instructor. Students have to search out some problems in the local environment and find out ways to solve those problems. They usually collect data on the burning problem of the area and analyse the data to justify the problem. Afterwards they search a solution and establish public contacts to discuss with them about the viability of the solution. They may contact some authorities concerned to the field of their action and make them aware about the same. The project is written properly and supported with sufficient data, presentation, and statistical graphs etc. If there is a need the students may prepare a working model of the same and posters to present their work. These types of activities are mostly wanted in the Children’s’ Science Congresses organised by the National Science and Technology Communication Network, New Delhi.
Similar activities are also demanded in various science exhibitions like Jawaharlal Nehru Science Exhibition conducted by the National Council of Educational Research and Training New Delhi. National Council of Science Museums, Kolkata also organises Science Dramas on different themes of environment every year. The instructor of the Environmental Studies should conduct a number of projects relevant to the topics he teaches in classrooms and these projects can be sent during the activities mentioned above. This may provide recognition to students and boost their moral to march ahead in the line of environmental research.
Educational Toursare organised for students to offer them practical experiences of environment, science and culture off different parts of the country. The governments are also inclined to support such types of programmes to assist the school children. In an educational tour students learn lots of things not only about environment and science but also about history, geography, civics, culture, traditions etc.Many belongingness and the team spirit also develops among students through these activities.
      The school field trip has a long history in the world of education. For decades, students have been boarding their school buses to visit a variety of cultural institutions, including art, natural history, and science museums, as well as theaters, zoos, and historical sites. Public schools gladly start the trip for they collect the expenses from guardians of students. However, government schools in India often hesitate due to shortage of funds. Now the state governments themselves extend financial support for these activities and students of government schools too frequently go on field trips. More-advantaged families may take their children to these cultural institutions outside of school hours, but less-advantaged students are less likely to have these experiences if schools do not provide them. With field trips, public schools viewed themselves as the great equalizer in terms of access to our cultural heritage.
The world is your classroom. Learning can — and should — happen everywhere. Field trips have been a part of education for thousands of years. But valuable learning experiences outside the classroom are not trivial to plan, execute, and follow up on — let alone to pay for or to convince a principal or superintendent that they’re valuable. But despite these challenges, a carefully planned and integrated field trip offers tremendous learning potential for all students. Before going on a field trip or at the planning stage every student should know about its aim and about its connections to some particular chapters of study in his/her Environmental Studies book. In this regard, following things are very important to be considered -
·      Curriculum materials or guides that have been developed by staff members from the site you will visit.
·      Learning outcomes for the trip
·         Standard Course of Study alignment
·         Essential concepts underlying the content and structure of the trip
·         Key vocabulary that will be a part of the trip
Environment Based Competitionsare organised in schools to put hands of students on experiments. There may be varieties of such competitions base on different themes of local and global environmental problems. Competitions organised on the basis of local environmental problems and phenomena are more important as these activities provide firsthand knowledge to students and offer them chances to explore the world they remain already familiar with. Survey of medicinal plants of a locality and their listing may be a more beneficial activity for a group of students of Bengal than study of the pollution of the water of the Yamuna river.Similarly study of causes affecting beauty of Taj Mahal may be a more appropriate topic for survey and research for a student of Agra than a student of Kerala. Thus competitions should be organised among students on real grounds to encourage mini research activities on the issues pertaining to the local environment only.
Study of artificial ponds can be taken as an activity for students so as to enable them study a fresh water ecosystem. They can be motivated to identify a number of producers and consumers there and to trace the food chains operating in that ecosystem. Students can also learn about different aquatic zones of a pond and about the distribution of different types of aquatic animals in it. In this way some other options for students can also be chosen for study like the trip to a lagoon, or to a salt water lake, or to a National Park or a National Sanctuary. The experience that is gained by students lasts for the whole life as it is the best form of teaching.
Horticultural practices in schools through the involvement of students are an important practical activity that should be done in all the schools. It is through these practices that students can learn everything about different types of plants including their soil and water requirements, requirements of sunlight, nutrients etc. During the process students often come to know about probable pests of a particular plant and their control through organic and inorganic methods. It is through horticultural practices that students come to know about the processes of reproduction of different plants, their morphological features and other related things. A good instructor can teach students a number of things while working with the students.
Seminar is a forum on which a student can present his opinions and studies on a particular theme. Seminars demand complete knowledge of certain topics and it is the complete preparation which boosts up a student to win the competition. In seminars a student has to present his findings on a particular topic. He has to present his findings with concrete proofs including visuals, documentaries, posters and slides etc.
A seminar is, generally, a form of academic instruction, either at an academic institution or offered by a commercial or professional organization. It has the function of bringing together small groups for recurring meetings, focusing each time on some particular subject, in which everyone present is requested to participate actively. This is often accomplished through an ongoing Socratic dialogue with a seminar leader or instructor, or through a more formal presentation of research. Normally, participants must not be beginners in the field under discussion. The idea behind the seminar system is to familiarize students more extensively with the methodology of presentation on their chosen subject and also to allow them to interact with examples of the practical problems that always occur during research work. It is essentially a place where assigned readings are discussed, questions can be raised and debates can be conducted. It is relatively informal, at least compared to the lecture system of academic instruction.
      Discussion / Debate
Debate, discussion and dialogue are common forms of communication. Debate is a combative activity and it seeks to be victorious. It wants to express itself and remains inclined to prove it better. Discussion can be defined as a debate trying to play nice. Much like a debate, it is interested in advocating its statements and challenging those of others. Dialogue is a method of communication that seeks to find a shared connection. It is not at all concerned with winning or losing. It aspires to listen deeply, understand completely, and to build a collective point of view.

In all the above cases programmes are organised for students to stand before the learned majority and to present his views. All of these demand complete knowledge and tough preparation. It is the will to inspire others or to win which activates or motivates a student to prepare his topic of study more completely. Once prepared and presented, the topic will encourage the student towards more reading and research. Thus these are important things in the teaching –learning process in Environmental studies, and also in other subjects

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