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Through a young learner’s early years, it is encouraged students are involved ‘in Design and technology – spoken as a singular rather than plural term – a holistic activity, involving thinking and doing, action and reflection (Davies, Howe, Collier, Digby, Earle, McMahon, 2014, pg. 8). Through experiencing science concepts hands-on, students are given an important opportunity to develop a different way of thinking, as they engage in the crucial role of play. As a result, early stage 1 gain an in-depth look into dinosaurs for 6-7 weeks, 1.5-2 hours a week they develop ideas about fossils and materials that are suitable for modelling use.
Identification of developmentally appropriate science and technology concepts
In order to develop appropriate science and technology concepts, students are initially required to gain an in-depth analysis of what a ‘living thing’ is. This stem based unit of work requires students to gain an understanding of what living things are, therefore learn the basic needs of organisms such as food, water and reproduction. This fluency of learning scientific concepts, continues on in the unit including ‘Dinosaurs’ and the ‘fossils’ involved. Unfortunately, dinosaurs are not a concept in the NSW syllabus despite being paramount in earth’s history and an area which some children are extremely passionate about. As captured by Kelly (1993, pg. 136) ‘dinosaurs are the most powerful things young children can think of’ and therefore are a useful introduction to scientific concepts as they are perfect for ‘children to collect, categorize, and master’ (pg. 138). Through using an interesting topic, students will immersive themselves in what is taught using their intrinsic motivation (Sullo, 2009) to meet other syllabus outcomes. The clear relationship between the unit and syllabus uses dinosaurs to creatively branch into other syllabus dot points e.g. what organisms need to have a strong, length, three-dimensional, space, multiplication. This STEM unit further introduces students to mathematical concepts as students identify the properties of a range of fossils, quantify their experiences and collect data by counting and comparing relative amounts and size (length, weight) and describing shape. (Ashbrook, 2019, pg. 2).
Development of proficient skills in working scientifically AND design and produce
It is important students are given to opportunity, to confidently engage independently in the design process, negotiate, solve problems and imagine alternative futures (Davis, Howe, Collie, Digby, Earle and Mchon, 2014, pg. 29). The introduction of the unit limits student’s autonomy as educators instead focus on class discussions as students share what they know and build on their own ideas. Through the teacher modelling what they want their class to achieve, early stage one is given a scaffold/aim on what they are required to do. Further, supported as Fleer (2016) states ‘in the early years students begin to manage projects with support from peers and teachers’. The teacher poses questions throughout the unit which forces children to think creatively about the topic and therefore will begin to gain the skill of questioning and prediction. Hareln and Qualter (2004) support that in science practical experience is enhanced through discussion and sharing of ideas. Furthermore, students will be taught to plan and conduct investigation. By the end of the first lesson students are given the independence to use a design brief, their creativity and passion to solve a problem
- look at photos of dinosaurs, (pose questions)
- talk about types of dinosaur’s classification (planning, process data)
- Independent work (conducting investigation)
- Small group classification discussion (communicating, analyse data)
This task stops abruptly as although leaners proud of their dinosaur sketch they never use it again. To improve the lesson, students may be given concrete materials which they can use to create a physical model which they can hang around the room.
Development of science/technology knowledge and understanding concepts
In order for students to develop their knowledge and understand a vast range of concepts it is vital teachers are engaging with the 5 E; s. As the unit progresses, student autonomy increases as they are encouraged to feel, think, wonder and create. Initially, learners identify living and non-living things, a concept which all students relate to as they can look at the world around them for answers. Through categorising living and non- living things key terminology terms will be continually taught and used, in discussion and small group activities e.g. organisms, reproduction, volcano, evidence. Furthermore, in later lessons students are given further independence as they compare different fossils. The class therefore learn how scientists (in particular palaeontologists) work out the age of a fossil through carrying out an investigation of their own e.g. measuring/weighing fossils. As a result, early stage one is ‘taught to take into account the size aswell as the number of units when comparing measurements’ (Hiebert, 1984). However, a limitation of this unit is that the activities are not appropriate for an early stage one class as students are measuring (with a ruler/not part of the syllabus), digging, weighing and comparing all by themselves. To ensure lesson 3 and 4 allow for a development of knowledge and not confusion, a separate lesson must be placed to focus on measurement and weight.
Capacity for students to develop science/technology knowledge and understanding
In order to develop students’ understanding about science and technology, the unit engages children in a dinosaur fossil hunt. Lesson four, allows students to embody the role of a palaeontologist as they find and collect data about a range of fossils. Students are required to calculate various dimension of the fossil, including length, height and weight. As captured in the syllabus, early stage 1 are required to develop an awareness of the attribute of length and some of the language used to describe length. As a result, it may be difficult for students to measure various lengths with a ruler, as they have not been taught how to use one. Nonetheless, students have not been taught how to use or read a scale or how to ‘label’ this data’ e.g. 5 kg. All this content for an early stage 1 class who are building foundation isn’t practical. It would be more beneficial to have students compare lengths, through placing the fossils side by side with other fossils. Even so, there may be a station where students place their objects on a scale (supported by the teacher) aswell as writing the measurement on a sticker which can be stuck on the fossil for future reference. To improve the reflection part of the activity, students may have to write down the differences between their partners fossil. It is important students compare using appropriate language ‘heavier, lighter, shorter’. Overall students, will develop an understanding of mathematical language, although teachers need to be careful children do not get confused with the vast number of concepts applied in one lesson.
The promotion of effective science and technology pedagogy
Educators with an inclusive and effective teaching pedagogy cater for all students in their lessons not just the ‘average learner’. Throughout the lesson plan extensive extension activities are chosen which provide a range of resources which allow for problem solving, communicating, reasoning and an increased understanding. Independent activities include students taking a virtual tour of a museum or learning about a famous palaeontologist. To ensure students aren’t placed too out of their depth ensure the resources about the famous palaeontologist are age suitable, picture books e.g. Fossils And History: Palaeontology for Kids. Furthermore, to effectively promote science teachers must assess students learning to ensure stem investigation allowed for active participation and improved understanding. The unit touched base on a large variety of concepts from using length in mathematics to a discussion about dinosaur characteristics. As a result, to appropriately assess students it is vital educators must analyse contributions in class and group work, to see if they are able to demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of concepts. Teachers may have a checklist to ask specific students questions who may be too shy to participate throughout the discussion (see what they know). Teachers must then be able to compare this oral use of assessment to the recorded activities (dinosaur sketch, mathematical measurements) assess if students understand the concept but just have trouble organising their thinking on paper.
. Resources relevant to this unit are all relatively easy to obtain
- $13.75 picture book Imagine by Alison Lester
- $12.95 story
- Small-scale Dinosaur toy models
Consequently, dinosaur toy models inaccurately portray the size e.g. tyrannosaurus rex same height as a brachiosaurus.
Although it is fundamental to unlock the enthusiasm for learning it is also essential to create safe learning environment to foster the full potential of students
What may go wrong
How to avoid
Using Dirt when digging
Get dirt in eye
Get bitten by insect
Inspect area before hand
Keep tools vertically by one’s side
Don’t have children walk with the digging tools.
Make sure they are plastic
Sharp Knife on Site
Keep away from children at all times
Use at teacher’s desk and make sure if students have a question they raise their hand and you go to them.
Handle with care
1) On practical lesson days arrange a teacher aid or parent help to come and assist.
2) Ensure students are staying at their desk and listening to instructions.
3) Give students time for discussion and independent time (variety)
4) To avoid interruption, ensure there is a part of the room designed for extension activities, this allows students to fluently move from one task to another without disruption.
- Ashbrook, P. (2019). Teaching the M in STEM. Science and Children, 56(6), 16-17. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.usyd.edu.au/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy1.library.usyd.edu.au/docview/2175248840?accountid=14757
- Board of Studies NSW. (2012). Science K-10 (incorporating Science and Technology K-6) Syllabus. Sydney.
- Hiebert, J. (1984). Why Do Some Children Have Trouble Learning Measurement
- Concepts? The Arithmetic Teacher, 31(7), 19-24. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41192320
- Davies, D., Howe, A., Collier, C., Digby, R., Earle, S., McMahon, K. (2014). Teaching Science
- and Technology in the Early Years (3-7). London: Routledge, https://doi-org.ezproxy1.library.usyd.edu.au/10.4324/9781315777771
- Kelly, K.(1993). Why kids love Dinosaurs. Parents, 68(10), 136–138. Retrieved f
- rom http://search.proquest.com/docview/1898997838/
- Fleer, M. (2016). Technologies for children. Melbourne: Cambridge.
- Harlen, W., Qualter, A. (2004) The Teaching of Science in Primary Schools. (4th ed). London: David Fulton.
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