Morphing Through My First year With Tadpoles
by Christine Morgan, Dr. Lautrice Nickson & Dr. Jaime Coyne
Growing up, science was typically boring with the exception of one experiment each year. As a child with natural curiosity, I hated the fact that science was reserved for special occasions. In addition, I wish the science lessons would have been more interactive, hands-on and relevant to the real world, all three key components to effective science teaching. According to Sadi and Cakiroglu (2011), "Hands-on science is important to enhance learners' success because students are actively involved in the learning process by manipulating objects or materials to gain knowledge so that they can construct their own understanding of science concepts" (p. 88). This type of learning facilitates the conceptualization of knowledge and establishes "meaningful learning" in which students relate new concepts to his or her prior knowledge (Novak, Wandersee & Mintes, 2005). Building connections from past experiences and from real-world situations are essential to authentic science learning. Furthermore! when teaching a science lesson, the best way to engage students is to make what they are learning relevant to th When I decided that I wanted to be a science teacher, my goal was to make science more enjoy¬able for my students than what I had experienced growing up.
When learning about life cycles, specifically metamorphosis, the district's science lab was sup-posed to provide the teachers with tadpoles to use and observe throughout our lesson. Unfortunately, due to the popular demand of tadpoles, they were gone by the time I was able to request them. Keeping the goal that I set at the beginning of the semester, J decided to go into the nearest lake that I could find to try and catch tadpoles myself. Despite my high level of determination and the two hours of walking through muddy water with no luck, I decided that the closest thing that I could catch was a damselfly larva. With this/ I decided that I would alter my lesson in order to fit the materials that I had while still using a frog's life cycle. I wanted to show that more than one animal goes through metamorphosis and this was a perfect substitution.
A Teachable Moment
About a month later, during the last week of school, the kids were out playing during recess (which happened to correlate with my lunchtime). When I entered the cafeteria, my students made a beehive toward me and with excitement started sharing how they found tadpoles in the gross rain-formed puddle from Houston's massive Memorial Day flooding. After hearing the news! I decided that once we got back into the classroom.I would use this opportunity as a teachable moment and take the kids to catch and take care of their own tadpoles. The abundance of tadpoles gave each student the opportunity to experience the life cycle of a frog. We grabbed cups and went outside after returning to class. It allowed me to discuss the stages that they would soon see their tadpole go through. This tadpole experience was the topic of conversation throughout the last few days of school among students and faculty. I even 'tweeted' a picture of our four-day-long class pet to document our exciting adventure for their parents and school faculty.
Classroom tasks should develop a spirit of inquiry and a sense of delight in discovery that will become part of each student's learning style (Speaker, 2001). This type of hands-on learning is what I hope to continue throughout my years of teaching. Bringing in real-world examples definitely made a big difference in retaining information and being able to apply the information at a later date. Showing students what they so desperately want - something 'cool' that they will talk about continuously for days was the icing on the cake.
I want my students to go home and be excited about science and education. They should be able to share what they learned that day rather than the typical response of 'nothing' when they are asked by their parents. These goals and experiences are what will keep me going throughout my career as a teacher.
Novak, J., Wandersee, J., & Mlntzes, J. (2005). Learning, Teaching and Assessment: A human constructivist perspective. In J. Novak,
J. Wandersee & J. Mintzes (Eds.), Assessing Science Understanding:
A Human Constructivist View (pp, 1-3). Burlington: Elsevier Academic Press.
Sadl, O. & Cakiroglu, J. (2011). Effects of hands-on activity enriched instruction on students' achievement and attitudes towards science. Journal of Baltic Science Education, 1O(2), 87-97.
Speaker, K. (2001). Interactive exhibit theory: Hints for implement¬ing learner-centered activities in elementary classrooms. Education, 121(3), dol: 00131172