Teacher: Ira Tuba, “Savremena” primary and secondary school – Belgrade, Serbia
Environmental protection is not an overly interesting area for children. But, through the application of various modern technologies it could be. This post will be about implementing STEM subjects in order to make students aware of the problems of recycling and waste disposal. The topic is divided into four sessions. Each session aimed to help students acquire new knowledge in an innovative and creative way and, also, encourage them to educate others in their surrounding about the importance of recycling.
This scenario was implemented live in our school, but is also suitable for online teaching. Fifteen students ages 10-11 participated in this project. Their prior knowledge of this topic was very superficial. They never dealt with this subject in school. Everything they knew they heard on television or from their parents. Therefore, they weren’t sure if the information they had was accurate.
The first lesson took place on April 1st. In that class, students were introduced to the concept of recycling and the impact of waste on the environment. They shared their experiences related to waste and recycling with the class and commented on them. At the end of this lesson we suggested that they use their social media to send a message to the world about the importance of recycling. Our students really liked that, and I think any students would. The idea of using their social media for school is very exciting for them.
The next class took place on April 8th. It was all about the impact that irresponsible garbage disposal has on the environment. We played a video for students about plastic bottles that shocked them quite a bit. After watching that video they were surprised with some facts about the impact that waste has on our health. That motivated them to be even more creative in designing promotional posters about recycling. They were very happy to place them around the school to always remind us to protect the planet and thus our health. This is some of their work.
The subject of the 3rd class, that took place on April 19th, is economic benefits of recycling. After learning what a circular economy is and why it is needed, we gave them a research task. They needed to find out how different countries stimulate the growth of the circular economy. For this task they had to apply their technological and information literacy, as well as critical thinking. These are all 21st century skills they will need in their future careers. Students like to be in the role of researchers and to find the necessary information on their own using technology. Therefore, this task was very interesting for them. I think this is a great way to stimulate students to actively participate in class.
Highlight of the scenario
The last session, which took place on April 27th, was the most interesting to the students. The joint creation of an interactive panel was the first part of the class. On that panel were placed interesting facts about recycling. During this task, the students were very productive and engaged. They enjoyed group work.
In the second part of the class, they made digital picture books that will be material for educating younger students of our school. There are a lot of foreign students in our school. As a result, we were able to make picture books in 4 languages (Serbian, English, French and German). It meant a lot to the children that they were given the opportunity to be in the role of the authors of the educational material.
We think that this learning scenario went very well with the students. It was interesting to them and instructive. Above all, they understood how important it is to combine different subjects to solve a real-life problems. They have developed an awareness of the importance of preserving natural resources through recycling. Also, they have learned how they can contribute to it. In conclusion, we made this “boring” topic very interesting to them, so they were eager to learn as much as possible.
The cooperation between the teachers was excellent. We learned a lot from each other. We plan to continue to work together as often as possible as we have concluded that together we can do much more for our students.
Dioramas: Any relative constructive material provided by the art teacher
Optional: Lego – Lego EV3 – Lego Spike prime
The specific learning scenario aims at introducing students to science, scientists and scientific thinking by using a different teaching approach. It attempts to dispel myths and stereotypes pertaining to the above-mentioned fields and create the conditions so that science becomes a familiar framework for all students. On understanding that science contributes to all kinds of human activities, the students will intuitively realize that scientific thinking and science have contributed and still do to the evolution of humanity and really define the cultural context of each era. To achieve these specific targets, the scenario uses the Nature of Science approach (NOS) and focuses on knowledge about science which includes “understanding the nature of science as a human activity and the power and limitations of scientific knowledge” (OECD 2012 – European Commission 2017).
The students are introduced to a very old, different era and start to understand human thinking by tracing the first steps taken by mankind. They are asked to go back in time to that era and not only offer solutions to problems of the time but also to compare their solutions to those given by the people living back then.
By taking part in activities, in an interdisciplinary context, the students cooperate using imagination, come to decisions or construct objects as a team and each member contributes creatively to the decisions or creations with his personal active participation (Cooperative Learning). During the different steps of the scenario, the students are asked to observe, gather, combine and analyze data from conditions given to them (Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE)). Furthermore, they are asked to solve open problems and answer real-life questions by applying divergent thinking, and using their knowledge, experiences, critical thinking and creative abilities (Problem Based Learning). They work in teams interacting with each other as well as with the content and the new information given to them which they gradually start acquiring (Content and Language Integrated Learning – CLIL).They collect information by themselves and by analyzing factors are led to group conclusions and findings that are announced in the plenary of the class (Flipped Classroom). Dealing with situations which demand better communication, interaction and critical thinking, the students gradually build on their previous personal knowledge and become increasingly better at solving problems (Project Based Learning).They build up their knowledge through constructions using analytic-synthetic thinking (DIY Science) and can then convey what they learned to the others (Collective Learning). A positive consequence is that they develop strategies which contribute to their learning how to learn (Metacognition).
During these procedures, the students intuitively comprehend (through comparison with early humans) that science constitutes a human endeavor, based on acquiring knowledge, its’ consequences are inextricably linked to technology and define the level of a civilization. A very important fact is that the students, resort to deeper thinking, set up their own scientific community, learn how to talk about scientific subjects using arguments and thus develop scientific literacy (OECD 2015). They acquire 21st century skills and can recall and use them in decision-making on everyday situations so that they become responsible citizens and can make informed decisions for the future of mankind.
Nature of Science (NOS): To dispel myths and stereotypes related to science, scientists and technology. To define science as human endeavour and process
Scientific Literacy: To explain phenomena scientifically. To recognize, offer and evaluate explanations for a range of natural and technological phenomena. To describe and appraise scientific investigations and propose ways of addressing questions. To analyze and evaluate data, claims and arguments in a variety of representations and draw appropriate scientific conclusions
Physics: To understand how weather conditions are formed and how they affect our living environment. To understand how friction brings about an increase in temperature
History: To become familiar with a certain period of prehistory called “Stone age” and its subdivisions. To realize how archaeologists interpret findings so as to reach conclusions.
Biology: To compare similarities and differences between human and animals with regard to their anatomy. To explain the important role that nutrition played in the evolution of the human body and in thinking
Technology: To realize that observation and application of processes (basic elements of science) produce and develop results those meet people’s needs (Technology – Tools). To also realize that the basic algorithmic process is the primary step in the case of coding. (Robotics – EV3 or Spike Prime)
Ecology: To understand that biodiversity is predominant in nature, in fauna and flora that it depends on certain conditions. To perceive that evolution of any species, including humans, depends on natural selection
Art History: To get to know that cave painting was the first attempt of humans to produce a symbolic language in their attempts to express and communicate their’ experiences. To also realize that the application of various techniques and colors indicates the evolution of thought itself
Art: To Imagine themselves as early humans painting landscapes. To design presentations and enrich them graphically. To use scale to construct dioramas about the stone age period.
Engineering: To analyze the reasons why the wheel wasn’t invented during that period despite the great need for relocation (limitation of science). To design and construct shelters as well as to design the most suitable proper location and topographical view of a stone-age city. To make constructions using Lego bricks following instructions
Natural Science: To become familiar with agricultural processes by extracting and planting seeds and growing edible products (flowers)
Mathematics: To apply analogies to manage plants use. To apply geometry and shape properties to construct shelters. To apply geometry and scales so as to design a city.
Τhe learning scenario was designed and implemented by the teachers and students of “Science Culture Educational Center “Aristotelio” – STEAM Academy”.
The design process of this learning scenario, time-consuming though it may be, has given us, the teachers, the unique opportunity to constructively cooperate on all levels. By delving into different educational methodologies and through the discovery of new educational approaches, we have creatively enriched and further developed the scenario. Above all, however, it helped us significantly with the positive feedback of our teaching practice as a whole.
The learning scenario has been implemented on and evaluated by students of different age groups and in particular from 6 to 12 years old. The purpose of the implementation was not only to accurately determine the age group which would more likely benefit from the scenario but also to possibly enrich it with more specialized activities.
During the implementation, it was concluded that students of all ages liked working collaboratively and each one of them was able to contribute to the produced work using his personal experiences, knowledge, abilities and skills. Furthermore, all the students liked the interdisciplinary approach to the subject as they understood the interdependence of learning and acquiring knowledge with the help of different fields. This multilevel approach was what helped them intuitively comprehend that solving open everyday problems asks for analysis, data processing and critical thinking.
What is more, it has been observed that young students (6-8 years-old), had difficulty understanding time sequence in the distant past. To this age group, the past is one and uniform and that is why they are not able to understand time sequence. This age group, together with the 8-10 year-olds, had trouble dealing with the nature of science and coming up with satisfactory answers to these specific issues. Some of the activities (shelter and settlement construction) were found to be quite demanding for them.
On the other hand, the 10-12 age groups managed to respond really well to all the demands of the scenario and achieved extremely high rates in solving the open problems. An equally important fact is that they worked collaboratively and developed the skills of scientific analysis, data processing as well as scientific argumentation, which have rendered them scientifically literate and have offered them the abilities needed to evolve into responsible citizens.
During 26 – 28 April 2021 the scenario implemented online with 10 – 12 years old students. Given the circumstances the original learning scenario had to be adapted as the activities related to constructions and the activity of robotics could not be carried out online by the students. However, the adaptation of the learning scenario did not make it difficult for the students to achieve the learning outcomes as the other activities were largely enriched with differentiated material which can be presented online.