Exemplar of Science Education –"Science and Living" Volumes 1 & 2
This enhancement programme recognises that gifted students possess acute observational powers and above average thinking skills. Their curiosity and strong desire to acquire new knowledge mean that they may not be satisfied with simple or mechanistic experiments. Instead, they enjoy conducting more in-depth, comprehensive exploratory activities to help them discover new phenomena and acquire more knowledge, which they can proceed to apply in solving everyday problems. The "Science and Living" programme was developed with these issues in mind. It not only aims to satisfy the needs of gifted students, but also to align these with the development of science education. According to the "Guidelines on Science Education", science is defined as a discipline in which students explore and study the phenomena and events taking place around us through systematic observation and experiments (Curriculum Development Committee, 2002, page 3). The first goal of science education is to help students acquire scientific knowledge and skills that they need; as well as cultivate their scientific thinking habits and skills in collecting evidence, conducting quantitative analysis, logical reasoning, creativity and handling uncertainties. Secondly, it enhances their decision-making and problem-solving skills. Thirdly, it prepares them to participate in open discussions relating to science, technology and society. The design of the programme in this exemplar is based on the overall objectives of science education, and its specific objective is to cultivate the inquiring skills of gifted students about science.
The "Science and Living" programme is divided into two volumes. Each contains six teaching sessions, and each session lasts for one-and-a-half hours. The target audiences of Volume 1 are gifted students in Primary 5 and 6. The six teaching sessions are: "Enzymes Can Grow", "Growth of Plants", "Mixing Liquids", "Sewage Treatment", "Greenhouse", and "The Characteristics and Applications of Magnets". The target audiences of Volume 2 are gifted students in Secondary 2 and 3. Its six teaching sessions are: "Magical Enzymes", "Functions of the Heart", "Magical Emulsifying Agents", "The Thermal Effect in Dissolving Materials", "Making a Greenhouse", and "The Greenhouse Effect". Between them, the six sessions have been developed to cover different areas of science education, such as scientific exploration, life and living, the material world, energy change, and the earth and space. They also enhance the scientific exploration skills of students, encompassing techniques that will help them learn how to summarise, draw inferences, create hypotheses, analyse and reach conclusions. A series of scientific exploration activities is used to teach gifted students how to grasp scientific knowledge in different areas, and to give full play to various aspects of their high-order thinking skills, such as memorisation, integration, understanding, application, analysis, conclusion and evaluation. It also helps develop their creativity, imagination, self-learning, collaboration and problem-solving abilities.
To suit the characteristics and needs of gifted students, the contents of these two volumes of programme exemplars override the depth and breadth of the relevant core curriculum. The programme adopts both problem-based and student-oriented approaches to teaching strategy. In addition, it provides plenty of explorative learning activities, so the gifted students who participate in them can give full play to their potential. Through observation, assumption, testing, proving, discussion and the design of experiments, students can cultivate their scientific exploration skills and spirit. They can also build their knowledge and become self-learners.
|Target:||Volume 1：Primary 5 and Primary 6 Gifted Students|
|Volume 2：Secondary 2 and Secondary 3 Gifted Students|
Objectives To enable students to:
Build a strong interest in learning science;
Grasp and consolidate some concepts and theories of science that relate to everyday life and environmental problems;
Master some basic scientific exploration skills, such as observation, classification, identifying patterns, forming assumptions, designing experiments, recording, drawing conclusions, analysing and presenting data;
Think deeply about a designated topic from different perspectives, such as relevant knowledge, understanding of the topic, application, analysis, integration and evaluation; and
Solve problems scientifically.
Learning and Teaching Process
The entire learning and teaching process is problem-based. Student-oriented teaching strategies are also used. During the learning process of each topic, teachers are more likely to share their life experiences with their students, to arouse their interest in learning. Through experiments, students also receive opportunities to explore and understand the scientific concepts and principles behind the theories. In addition, the programme focuses on applying explorative learning approaches that aim to train their scientific exploration abilities. Lessons take the form of group-learning activities, so the students can strengthen their collaborative skills. Last, but not least, it provides on-line reference resources to encourage students to use information technology and continue to learn after class.
Volume 1 (Target: Primary 5 and 6 Gifted Students)
Volume 1's topics not only encompass "The Natural World" and "Science and Technology" of the Primary School General Studies, yet the contents are also closely linked with every area of the science education curriculum framework.
In the first session of the programme, an activity entitled "Enzymes Can Grow", students learn about the role enzymes play during the baking of bread. Through such activities, they understand that enzymes make the bread rise when it is baked. They also adjust the amount of enzyme in the bread, and the baking temperature, to observe how these factors affect the bread's quality. Through this observation process, they learn scientific exploration skills, such as handling variable factors, recording and observing experimental results.
In the second session of the programme, the "Growth of Plants" activity, students experiment by adding different concentrations of pollutants (e.g. detergent, disinfectant, acid and salt water) to study how soil pollution affects the growth of plants. They are also required to measure and record changes in the growth rates of seeds, and how to analyse the collected data to draw conclusions about the experiment results.
In the third session of the programme, "Mixing Liquids", students observe and find out the characteristics of different liquids (such as wine and alcohol) when they are mixed with water. Then, they are shown how to make assumptions to predict the possible outcomes of mixing different types of liquids together. Finally, the students are required to test whether the assumptions they have made in the course of the experiments are correct.
In the fourth session of the programme, the "Sewage Treatment" activity, students begin by making their own filters from different types of materials. Then, they conduct experiments to test the filters' effectiveness. Finally, they modify their original designs to improve their efficiency.
In the fifth session of the programme, an activity called "Greenhouse", teachers start by using a picture of a greenhouse to arouse the interest and learning motivation of the students. Then, they discuss some basic knowledge about greenhouses. At the same time, they guide the students to think about the contributions that greenhouses make to our everyday lives, and their limitations. Afterwards, students are taught how to use data loggers to simulate the relationship between the temperature and luminosity in the greenhouse. In the final stage, students collect data on the ways certain variables (such as luminosity) affect the greenhouse temperature, with the help of computers and data loggers. Thus, students are trained to apply information technology as they explore science. They also learn to observe and analyse data to calculate how a greenhouse temperature changes when its variables are adjusted.
In the sixth session of the programme, "The Characteristics and Applications of Magnets" activity, students carry out various activities related to the characteristics of two types of magnet (such as what phenomena can be expected when magnets of different polarities are brought together, how a compass is affected by a magnet, and the characteristics of electromagnets) [Refer to Worksheet (1)]. Following these activities, they go on to study the maglev effect; and they investigate the principles, advantages and difficulties involved in applying maglev technology in public transport systems.
Volume 2 (Target: Secondary 2 and 3 Gifted Students)
The content of the "Magical Enzyme" activity in the first session of the programme is the same as that of "Enzymes Can Grow" in Volume 1 for primary 5 and 6 gifted students. Through experiments, students compare the quality of bread to which an enzyme has or has not been added during the baking process. Ultimately, they discover the effects that an enzyme has on bread. Then, teachers discuss the scientific principles of fermentation with them. Students are required to list various factors that may affect the enzyme (such as the amount of enzyme added and the fermentation temperature). They go on to make hypotheses, design and conduct experiments in order to test their own hypotheses, as well as explore in depth how various factors can affect the functions of the enzyme. Afterwards, the entire group of students is required to discuss, attempt to explain with valid reasons, and assess the experimental design. The final stage is for them to apply the previously obtained data to bake a large bun. The differences between this session and "Enzymes Can Grow" are not merely in the curriculum content, but also in the teaching and learning process. Since junior secondary students may possess better understanding skills and higher ability than senior primary ones, teachers might need to make certain adjustments when assessing the students' opinions, hypotheses, designs, result analyses and conclusions. For instance, in designing and testing how various factors affect an enzyme, junior secondary students should be able to consider the effects of different temperatures and different amounts of enzyme. If students' design is too simple, teachers can give appropriate guidance and feedback. The teachers' expectations for junior secondary students are undoubtedly higher than those for senior primary students. According to students' performance, teachers may also guide them to carry out much more in-depth data analysis, and draw conclusions that are based on both scientific theories and logic.
In the second session, an activity called "Getting to Know the Heart", teachers start by using a model and specimen pig's heart to introduce the structure and functions of the heart. By operating a pump, students can compare the similarities and differences between a heart and a pump. After they have grasped the structure and functions of the heart, they are required to use a pump to make an artificial heart and a blood circulation model based on the operating principles of the heart. As they operate the models, they try to work out the causes of heart disease, and evaluate its impact on the human body (please refer to worksheet (2)).
In the third session, an activity called "Magical Emulsifying Agent", teachers use the example of how to float a metal paper clip on water to arouse their students' interest and learning motivation about the principle of surface tension. Then, the students use various activities to make assumptions about factors that may change surface tension. They also conduct tests that study and prove how different everyday materials, like cleaning agents, egg yolk and soap, change the surface tension of water. Teachers discuss the experiment results with the students afterwards, in order to establish the functions of emulsifying agents. Analyses and comparisons are made about the effects of different everyday materials when they are used as emulsifying agents.
In the fourth session, an activity called "Thermal Response of Dissolving Material", students are required to find out the thermal responses of different materials (CuSO4、CaCl2、NaCl、KNO3、NH4NO3) when dissolved. They then go on to design their own heating pads, based on the data they have collected.
During the fifth session, an activity called "Making a Greenhouse", students build a mini-greenhouse with simple materials. Using different instruments, like a traditional thermometer and data logger, they compare their accuracy. Moreover, they also learn how to use different types of instruments (such as computers and data loggers) appropriately, to collect and analyse data – in this case, temperature changes in the greenhouse – and understand its characteristics.
In the sixth session, an activity called "The Greenhouse Effect", students are required to explore the relationship between carbon dioxide and the greenhouse effect. They start by using vinegar and soda powder to make carbon dioxide, which is then injected into a transparent container that simulates the greenhouse environment.
The container is placed beneath a light bulb, and a data logger is used to measure its interior and exterior temperatures, so that students can identify and compare the differences between the heat storage properties of carbon dioxide and air (please see figure1).
If the experiment does not yield the results they expected, they immediately examine it carefully and modify the experimental devices. First, they place some black soya beans into the transparent container containing carbon dioxide. Since the black soya beans initially absorb light, energy is then emitted in the form of heat radiation. The same amount of black soya beans is also put into another container filled with air, to conduct a comparative experiment (please see Picture 2). Through this experiment, teachers can discuss the impact of the greenhouse effect on the environment with students.
After completing this science exploration programme, no matter gifted students are of Primary 5 and 6 or Secondary 2 and 3 levels, they will have a comparatively extensive and deeper understanding of some of the concepts and theories of science. Moreover, they will also be able to grasp some fundamental scientific exploration skills, such as observation, measurement, distinguishing patterns, making assumptions, designing experiments, recording results, analysing and presenting data, and drawing reasonable conclusions.
In addition, gifted students of these two levels can master the skills of using some basic instruments and information technology when carrying out scientific exploration. They can also understand the close relationships between science and daily life, as well as how scientific knowledge and skills can improve our quality of life. Furthermore, since this programme is problem-based and student-oriented (rather than content-based), the students' interest in science will be dramatically enhanced. They can solve problems with a scientific approach, and derive scientific knowledge from everyday life.
Through these two programmes, students acquire scientific knowledge in different areas. For example, Primary 5 and 6 gifted students can learn the characteristics of enzymes, the effects of soil pollution on the growth of a plant, the maglev effect, the advantages and difficulties of applying maglev technology to the public transportation system, and the characteristics of greenhouses. Secondary 2 and 3 gifted students can investigate the scientific principles involved in the fermentation process, understand the operating principles of the heart, and investigate the causes of heart disease and its consequences in the human body. They can also design and make heating pads based on their understanding of emulsifying agents, study the characteristics of greenhouses, and establish the relationship between carbon dioxide and the greenhouse effect by using data loggers.
The experimental activities in this programme place great emphasis on cultivating the students' spirit of scientific exploration. Through a series of activities, they are shown how to use high-order thinking skills to explore scientific themes. By applying scientific exploration procedures – such as discovering problems, making assumptions, testing, drawing conclusions, evaluating and modifying – they also learn how to validate their experiment results.
Taking the greenhouse investigation as an example, this activity is beyond the ability of average senior primary students, so it should be very challenging for gifted students. Only those with outstanding analytical skills and logical thinking ability, as well as a certain prior understanding of the concept of a greenhouse, can draw on its experimental conclusions in a systematic way.
Through the process of changing certain variables of the greenhouse repeatedly (for example, the intensity of light), gifted students of Primary 5 and 6 can investigate the various factors that may affect the greenhouse temperature and record relevant data. Using these data, they can proceed to analyse and discover the relationship between temperature and luminosity; and finally deduce ways to adjust the greenhouse temperature. Through their first-time use of a data logger, they will learn how to observe precisely and systematically, as well as to record the results. They will understand methods of collecting scientific data in more detail. Therefore, they will be able to make greater use of their excellent abilities. Not only will they experience a heightened sense of satisfaction and enjoyment, they will also grasp the skills of scientific exploration. On the other hand, activities designed for junior secondary gifted students require them to understand the operation of a greenhouse as well as explore the causes of the greenhouse effect. The teaching content is more detailed and comprehensive than that intended for senior primary levels. The design and validation processes for experiments are also more complicated. Despite this, gifted Secondary 2 and 3 students are more than happy to take up the challenges. Pictures 1 and 2 are good examples of how devoted they are when they participate in these activities. Once such gifted students realise the experiment results have failed to produce the anticipated greenhouse effect, they will take the initiative to examine the phenomenon and modify the experimental devices (the absorption of light by black soya beans and the emission of energy in the form of heat radiation). At the same time, another container filled with air was prepared, and the same amount of black soya beans are placed in it to conduct a comparative experiment. In this way, the programme proves that by providing a suitable learning environment, together with activities and teaching strategies that suit the needs of students, they can build their knowledge of science through hands-on practice and solve problems with the scientific knowledge. Students can thus cultivate a persistent spirit of exploration.