Use environment to simplify science

Stella Namatovu

What you need to know:

  • Right from primary, science is defined as the study of living and non-living things. Although this is the case, it is not alien to find science teachers locking students in a four walled classroom and using the chalkboard as a true depiction of the reality.

As a new student in the school, John joined in on the fire safety training which was often carried out at the beginning of term. The training was conducted in a way that the students were first taken through the theoretical sessions and then later showed the practicability of putting out a fire using the fire extinguisher.

When John was selected, he explained everything about the fire extinguisher right from its use to the contents in the container and the application. However, when he was asked to go and pick one for the experiment, he could not find it, and yet they were hung on the walls of each classroom block. This shows that he had all the knowledge theoretically but could not apply it because neither had he physically seen one nor given a chance to practice with one. 

Right from primary, science is defined as the study of living and non-living things. Although this is the case, it is not alien to find science teachers locking students in a four walled classroom and using the chalkboard as a true depiction of the reality.

We all know that our country is endowed with nature and the fact that agriculture is the backbone of our economy goes without mention. Premised on this background, teachers should avoid deliberately pushing learners to cram by teaching concepts like germination from inside a classroom and drawing a few illustrations on the chalkboard hoping to trigger their imagination.

We should remember that these children come from natural settings in the community with some having been dynamically involved in these activities with their families. The fact that a real-life activity is taught in class as if it’s a new concept is one of the reasons why science continues to be thought of as hard by most students and even some teachers.

In 2021, a Uneb report revealed that science subjects were poorly done, with nearly half of the candidates failing to achieve the minimum pass 8 grade level for each academic subject taught at O-Level. This goes back to us teachers not being aware of the rich curriculum laboratory offered by our schools’ immediate environment. It is also caused by the large content to be covered within a specified time coupled with a highly examination-oriented teaching. But, what good is teaching if there is no impact?

Science is all about discovery, exploration, and learning as one does. When teaching children about the parts of an egg, why not bring some boiled eggs to class, take them outside when learning about the different types of leaves, or even task each pupil/ student to carry along a flowering and non-flowering plant for the next class. Why labour yourself to draw the different examples of simple machines on the chalkboard when you can simply carry along a stapling machine, punching machine and scissors when teaching about how machines simplify our work?

The concept of employing locally available materials in teaching science is a worthwhile teaching-learning strategy for building the conceptual understanding of students. It helps students construct their previous knowledge and enables them to be the scientists of their world.

To the heads of schools and stakeholders, science teachers must undergo in-service training programmes on the use of the immediate environment in schools as this will greatly impact the acquisition of science process skills by students and improve the overall performance of science as a basis for future science-oriented careers.

Science is a practical subject that is relevant to all our lives. Instructional methods employed by science teachers should include and emphasise the use of locally available materials in both pre-service and in-service training courses. In return, these instructional methods will influence the level and quality of participation and performance in science by students.

As schools open, let us ensure that we use our environment to teach science practically to help simplify scientific concepts and create a connection between theory and reality for our learners.

The writer is the publicity officer at River Flow International-Science Teachers’ Initiative

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