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Successful Experiences in Primary School Science Education

Laura Ricco, Maria Maddalena Carnasciali

Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry
University of Genoa (Italy)

marilena@chimica.unige.it

Abstract

The paper deals with two successful experiences to teach basic chemistry contents at primary school. The first one is an interdisciplinary teaching proposal focused on the chemical process of dissolution and based on the laboratorial approach. It is a long and complex path, composed of several activities, starting from the first year of primary school and concluding at the fifth year. The second activity has a similar objective and the work with children starts in a motivating context: the preparation of pickled olives and fruit in syrup. Both the experiences encourage motivation linking what the teacher proposes to students’ experience and daily live and are focused on an active and participatory role of students.

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Comments about this Paper

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Date: 2014.10.12

Posted by A.J. Torres (Spain)

Message: This paper describes two successful experiences to teach chemistry contents at primary school. Experiences in primary school about chemistry are not very common in science education, and this fact makes this paper a very interesting document. These two successful experiences are about dissolution with a laboratorial approach and pickled olives and fruit in syrup, two contextual approaches with everyday science that involve contents linked to chemistry and also mathematic. This study is very useful because primary teachers can find in it a ways to teach chemistry from a macroscopic point of view. I consider this document to be highly remarkable and their conclusions can be used in the classroom not only by primary teachers.

Date: 2014.05.14

Posted by Manuel Fernández (Spain)

Message: This article has the merit of targeting primary education, a level rarely explored in science teaching. The two activities, which begin in the first grade and end in fifth grade, are the following: (i) a laboratory study of the dissolution process; (ii) the preparation of olives in vinegar and fruit in syrup. These topics should not be evaluated from an academic perspective, given the level that they are conceived for, but rather should be positively valued as way of establishing a first contact with science. If the conceptual treatment is simple and closely linked to reality, this should be regarded as a positive quality, taking into account the stage of cognitive development of the children, who are very young. Accordingly, this means that a contextual treatment is necessary, such as the one in the article, which focuses on everyday life.
In conclusion, this is an excellent article for primary school teachers, and can even be useful for secondary school teachers as well.

Date: 2014.04.30

Posted by Maria José Rodrigues (Portugal)

Message: Sharing experiences between teachers and researchers is essential to the development and knowledge construction in education; particularly in science education, a field of extensive discussions and debates, it is being consensual the recognition of its relevance in today's society and in the preparation of scientifically literate citizens.
In this context the analyzed publication is of high relevance since it shares successful experiences in chemistry education that also constitute useful examples for teachers in other educational areas. We must highlight here the fact that education in science starts in the early years of schooling (from kindergarten and later in the first cycle of basic education), so that, in these contexts, chemistry, as well as other science branches can be worked conjunctly with other knowledge areas, as evidenced in the publication.
It is at this level that children begin to build basic concepts of chemistry that will be fundamental for their studies progression acting as learning facilitators of concepts of increasing complexity.
Moreover, the publication highlighted the importance that educational policies must attribute to initial and in-service teachers’ training as a way to provide high-quality education supported by innovative and appropriate methodologies, in-line with the new realities demanded by society.
The activities are described in detail indicating suggestions for didactic exploration and describing the skills that children can develop. The lab work with active participation of the students is privileged as a way to promote knowledge construction, highlighting the success of the results obtained. Thus, the publication constitutes a good support for teachers wishing to implement similar activities in their educational contexts.

Date: 2014.04.07

Posted by Françoise Derwa (Belgium)

Message: This publication describes two successful experiences on basic chemistry teaching at the primary school level. While the first experience focuses on the chemical process of dissolution through the laboratory, the second one deals with the preparation of pickles and fruit in syrup. Both the experiences have in common one objective: the active and participative role of students during chemistry lessons.
This publication is relevant in terms of the enhancement of chemistry teaching methodology to motivate chemistry learning among students.
It also introduces one critical factor existing during students’ process of learning chemistry. Since in primary school chemistry teaching is organized in basic themes such as vegetable world, human body etc., It is during this period that pupils’ linguistic problems occur and they reveal the first misconception on what they learn, that will affect their future studies. At this stage, students realize that some topics are too difficult to understand and they activate the “memorizing” process, when they start learning everything by heart. This will have its consequences starting from secondary school, where chemistry topics become more complex so students start having the first issues in understanding the microscopic level, the books they use are not adequate, they lack experimental activities and the teaching time is insufficiently allocated.
The two experiences can be considered successful as, while textbooks sometimes make the mistake to concentrate and mix complex contents targeting to minds not able yet to receive them, they are simple and practical, and they show the efficiency by which students learn through them. The solution proposed for solving this problem is to act in a macroscopic level rather than a microscopic one, which is assumed to be more suitable to students’ background.
Through a detailed description of the two experiments, the publication shows the students’ performances in both studying the solubility of a solid and making pickles and fruit in syrup. This can be seen as a good example for the teachers to follow.

Date: 2014.04.03

Posted by Eva Smreková (Slovakia)

Message: The paper describe successful experience in science teaching at primary school in Italy. It describe science teachers, who leads their pupils to investigative approach to the environment and prepares children for more detailed studies in later grades. Two successful experiences are presented in the paper: an interdisciplinary teaching proposal and a motivating context approach. The authors refer to two teaching projects: The first one takes place over a period of five years and follows young students’ gradual understanding and mastering of the concepts of solubility and solutions. This project is very interesting from the pedagogical and psychological point of view and I would be strongly interested to learn more on the evolution of young pupils’ views during the years. The second teaching activity, named “Pickled olives and fruit in syrup” starts in a motivating context and puts students in the center of the learning process. The authors make a brief reference to the strengths of this teaching approach and they tend to support the view that both described teaching approaches correctly follow the phenomenological – macroscopic approach.
The authors discuss some problems that could make chemistry rejected: the difficulty in the comprehension of the microscopic (abstract) level, the use of not adequate textbooks, the lack of experimental activities, the insufficient allocated teaching time.
The paper is closely related to the theme of the Chemistry is all around us - network project. The paper deals with problems in chemistry teaching and propose two practical activities.

Date: 2014.04.03

Posted by Nilgün Solak (Turkey)

Message: The writer mentioned that the activity taking place on text books and in lesson must be relevant to students’ cognitive level of learning so that students can get meaningful learning. For that reason, this article serves two well organized studies according to skills of primary school students. The first study is a long lasting one so that it is getting more comprehensive step to step owning to students’ linguistic and metacognitive abilities. In second activity, it is a good example for teachers how to be a quide in lesson while students developing communication and argumentative skills.

Date: 2014.04.01

Posted by Erdem HAREKET (Turkey)

Message: Experience and learning by experience one of the most important things in primary education process. So, we can understand this better thanks to this paper. Because we know that students want try something. In addition, this condition necessary for chemistry. We must prepare trial areas for chemistry laboratory for students. Also we should not forget that teamwork is another chief ingredient of a successful lesson. For this reason, teachers should prepare support to student about this experience. From the other side, this subject significant for another educational levels. I guess that ıf we be carefull about this, students will be eagerly to learning of chemistry. As a summary, I personally find the described activities useful and I believe that this article provide new views to learning of chemistry.

Date: 2014.04.01

Posted by Nurcan Ertugrul (Turkey)

Message: In this paper, two activities are mentioned. There are many things to be said as important for these activities. Yet, in my opinion, the most highlighted one is that students who attend to have difficulty in understanding microscopic matters. So , it can be useful for teachers in making their practices. In addition to this, teacher can get benefits from these activities since details of activities are given.

Date: 2014.04.01

Posted by Mustafa Bayrakci (Turkey)

Message: This paper is related to two experiences in teaching basic chemistry contents at primary schools. The first one is a long process which constitutes several activities during primary school years of students (from 1st to 5nd years). Here, students are followed in terms of their understanding in concepts of solubility. The other activity is called as “Pickled olives and fruit in syrup”, which put students in an active role. From the paer we haave learned that young students do not exactly know what is chemistry, they like learning and observing environment. from the paer, it can be understandable that chemistry can be attractive for students when it used effectively. becoms attractive or students. Moreover, group work and observation are good ways in teachng chemistry.

Date: 2014.03.25

Posted by Rose Lawlor (Ireland)

Message: This paper is recounting a programme put in place in Primary Schools to improve students’ understanding of solubility.
The programme is five years long.
The thinking is that students at this level can have linguistic and comprehension problems and in order to overcome problems in understanding some topics they will memorise rather than making any effort to understand. Students who learn this way will become increasingly good at it and if they achieve good grades by memorising they will continue to work that way in secondary school.
The program set out to harness young students’ innate curiosity and questioning. It was decided not to study any abstract areas of science as their minds are considered unprepared to receive them. Unfortunately textbooks often examine the abstract and so were deemed unsuitable for the program.
Year one and two concentrated on students observing and comparing liquids and solids and their behaviour in water.
Years three, four and five were concerned with concepts of concentration, saturation and also learning that when a solid “became invisible” in water it did not mean it had “disappeared”.
In third and fourth year students got involved in processes that they would be familiar with in everyday life: making brine for preserving olives and making syrup for preserving fruit. These processes involved making just the right concentrations and volumes of solutions – and changing the brine after a fixed length of time.
The authors of this work reported that the worth-while aspects of this program were:
• The teacher acted as a facilitator
• Discussion allowed students develop skills in communicating and arguing
• Designing experiments gave an opportunity to be creative – even to very weak students
• The work developed in terms of observation and seeing phenomena
Ultimately the aim of this program is to develop linguistic and logical skills, to understand similarities and differences and to understand what is meant by variables.
Personally, I would be very happy if students came into secondary school with these skills.

Date: 2014.03.16

Posted by Panagiotis Charizanos (Greece)

Message: This paper is relevant because it deals with two successful experiences to teach basic chemistry contents at primary school. Young pupils do not know what chemistry is, but they love to learn and to observe nature. In primary school, they learn how to describe, discuss and most importantly how to formulate hypotheses. This paper mentions the fact that if chemistry is “served” in a more effective, common and everyday form, like peaches and olives, even a theme like dissolution of fluids begins to be attractive for students. This activity also shows that observation must not be a boring and meaningless procedure but a basic component of the lesson. Teamwork is another basic component of a successful lesson.
Both the experiences encourage motivation by linking what the teacher proposes to students’ experience and daily life and they are focused on an active and participatory role of students. It is a suggestion for all teachers to try similar activities with their classes. Even though the paper focuses on activities performed in primary school, it is well known that the earlier students get involved with this type of activities the better are the results in regard with their attititude towards science.
I personally find the described activities very useful and will make an effort to try some of them out in my class as well.

Date: 2014.03.11

Posted by John Koutelekos (Greece)

Message: This is a paper which deals with science teaching in primary school, a subject which is quite important on its own since much less material is available for primary school relative to secondary school students.
The authors refer to two teaching projects: The first one takes place over a period of five years and follows young students’ gradual understanding and mastering of the concepts of solubility and solutions. In my opinion the authors of the paper should give more information on the outcomes of the teaching process which would thus provide more concrete evidence for its success. Nevertheless, I found this project very interesting from the pedagogical and psychological point of view and I would be strongly interested to learn more on the evolution of young pupils’ views during the years.
The second teaching activity, named “Pickled olives and fruit in syrup” starts in a motivating context and puts students in the center of the learning process. Similarly with the first activity, this one also seems to be very carefully designed and executed. The authors make a brief reference to the strengths of this teaching approach and they tend to support the view that both described teaching approaches correctly follow the phenomenological – macroscopic approach. This conclusion is based on the fact that primary school students are too young to understand the microscopic nature of matter and an effort to use it in class would make them resort to rote learning. Even though this may be true, it needs however to be systematically tested via educational research.

Date: 2014.03.08

Posted by Luiza Wezyk (Poland)

Message: Two successful experiences are presented in the paper: an interdisciplinary teaching proposal and a motivating context approach. First we get a description of the background of the both experiences with the most important fact: the subject Science, at primary school (whose problems are in the focus of the document), promotes a questioning and investigative approach to the environment and prepares children for more detailed studies in later grades. Authors mention main methods and tools used in good practice examples: laboratory approaches, cooperative learning, problem based learning, ICTs and conceptual maps. They try to define what aims are the most important at primary school and point out work on kids’ skills of observation and description, on kids’ urge to ask questions, to formulate hypotheses, to discuss the latter with classmates or to design experiences to get confirmation of the hypothesis. The good practice examples discussed later are presented in a very concrete and practical form, without increasing the level of generality. I'm a little disappointed with the lack of sufficient connection between described case studies and final conclusions. Nevertheless, the document should be assessed helpful in developing modern methods of teaching chemistry in primary schools.

Date: 2014.03.05

Posted by Marcela Grecová (Czech republic)

Message: The paper deals with successful experience in science teaching at primary school in Italy. It describe science teachers, who leads their pupils to investigative approach to the environment and prepares children for more detailed studies in later grades.
The authors discuss some problems that could make chemistry rejected: the difficulty in the comprehension of the microscopic (abstract) level, the use of not adequate textbooks, the lack of experimental activities, the insufficient allocated teaching time.
The authors state proposals for solutions - to improve the relationship between chemistry and students, the fundamental objective is to enhance the comprehension of contents. At primary school it is important to work on kids’ skills of observation and description. On the latter point, it is worth emphasizing that “laboratorial approach" means not only "laboratory activities", but a way of doing school in which student’s activity is "experimental". The authors suggest two examples of good practices. The first activity is an interdisciplinary proposal to introduce the concept of solubility and solutions. The second activity is named Pickled olives and fruit in syrup. There is provide a detailed guidance in the paper.
The paper is closely related to the theme of the Chemistry is all around us - network project. The paper deals with problems in chemistry teaching and propose two practical activities. There is detailed description of this activities, so that teachers could involve it to their practice. I find this paper very useful.

National Reports on successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry The national reports on chemistry successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry are now available on the related section of the project portal. The reports presents examples of successful experiences in the partner countries and the results of testing of ICT resources with science teachers.

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