Science Lessons Forum for primary and secondary schools

STAR SCIENCE
By Angel C. De Dios, PhD

The Philippine STAR 11/23/2006

The computer classroom, like any classroom, is a place, first and foremost, for learning and not teaching. This is a simple but nonetheless an important point. When we focus on learning, we provide an environment that is rich in opportunities for discovery and inquiry. On the other hand, an emphasis on teaching may carry the detrimental scars of negative experiences adults have had acquired in the past as well as our own limitations. Learning requires facilitation. It begins with resources and continues with guidance. Students, especially children, are generally visual, sensing, active and sequential learners. It is within this premise that the Science Lessons Forum has been assembled.

The Science Lessons Forum contains learning resources for teachers, students and parents. Each lesson starts with a news article. The forum can therefore be regarded as learning science as a current event-based subject. The news article (obtained from press releases from universities and articles provided by eurekalert.org, livescience.com, sciencedaily.com, and other science news sources) is usually a text explaining in layman or popular language a recent scientific discovery. These articles are generally short as they are only meant to arouse one’s quest for knowledge. The bulk of the science lessons lies in the exploratory questions found at the end of the news article. These questions are asked and answered by links to websites that have been chosen for their clarity, correctness and style. Efforts were made to arrange the questions in some useful pedagogical order. Most of these websites are chosen for their visual content. Some of these websites are dynamic. Some are interactive. Some carry audio material. And each lesson ends with interactive games relevant to the topic to attract further the interest of the learners.

For example, in one of the topics, the leading news article relates the story of the recent Guimaras oil spill. This article is then followed by the basic question as to why one should be concerned with oil spills. The answer to this question is provided by a link to a site called “oil and water don’t mix” made by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which provides a highly interactive cartoon-based presentation on the immiscibility of oil and water and its harmful environmental consequences.

The Science Lessons Forum is based on a philosophy that incorporates what we know about learning into teaching. The forum does not recommend that we abandon the traditional lecture-based classroom. Instead, the suggestion is to tailor the lectures with a style that takes into account the preferences of young learners. With these in mind, one can see the rationale behind the structure of each lesson.

As a summary, the Science Lessons Forum provides resources that hopefully will facilitate the learning in the classrooms. These, unfortunately, are just resources. These simply embody a starting point. To make the forum work, it requires participation. The forums will only facilitate learning if there are facilitators. And this is the call for all parents and teachers. Reading and examining the contents of the forum is the first important step.

One of the important features of the Science Lessons Forum lies in its outline, in which learners are guided on how to explore concepts, ideas and phenomena. It is expected that the time spent on these lessons will translate into developments in the areas of reading, mathematics and reasoning. Thus, it is projected to have an impact on almost every aspect of education. The placement of the science lessons in a forum creates an atmosphere of feedback. Messages and queries can be posted. Conversations on various topics can be cultivated. These pages are dynamic and they could become interactive with our participation. Although the webmasters could access the statistics of the forum and determine how frequent the science lessons are being used, what is more significant is the fact that the readers – students, teachers and parents – can post. It is this aspect that makes the Science Lessons Forum unique. And at this early stage of the forum, we hope that this interactive capability, which is built on the framework of the Science Lessons Forum, will grow with time. The Science Lessons Forum currently has 300 topics with thousands of links, and can be found in: http://www.paete.org/forums/viewforum.php?f=12

The Science Lessons Forum is part of the Alay Computer project of Paete, Laguna. Some of the topics have already inspired the local leaders of Paete, Laguna while they search for better ways of protecting their environment and for more sustainable means of livelihood. In this year’s National Achievement Exam, the schools of Paete obtained mean percentage scores in the upper 60s and mid-70s, a marked improvement from a couple of years ago when their scores were in the 25-35 range.

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