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UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 01 | Jan. 11, 2001

Course encourages science students to think `elementary'

Instructors hope to foster sense of wonder and knowledge of natural world in young people

by Hilary Thomson staff writer

Hands-on science education for children is the focus of a new course in the Faculty of Education that incorporates an after-school learning program created by a UBC pathologist.

"We want to strengthen science teaching at the elementary levels," says Curriculum Studies Prof. Jim Gaskell.

"By introducing Science students to the joys of working with kids we hope to encourage them to consider a career in science education."

Called Investigating Science with Children, the Curriculum Studies elective course is open to third-and fourth-year Science students.

The three-credit course has two components. In the classroom-based component students will discuss and research science education issues and create science investigations for children.

The laboratory-based component incorporates the science activities learning program designed by Niamh Kelly, an associate professor in the Dept. of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. Called Hands-On Science, the program has been based at Science World and taught by UBC graduate student volunteers since 1998.

"We had been looking for venues for the lab section and the Hands-on Science program seemed like a great starting place," says Gaskell, who is co-ordinating several faculty projects that seek to develop math and science education.

The new course is part of one of those projects, Collaboration for Kids, that is directed by Curriculum Studies Prof. Gaalen Erickson.

An important part of the course -- worth 25 per cent of the grade -- is a reflective research journal where the student documents observations, ideas and questions about their interaction with children in the lab.

"When Science students learn to teach science to kids it forces a shift in thinking," says Sandra Scott, one of the two Education PhD students who will be instructing the course. "Students are sometimes surprised that their expertise in the subject doesn't automatically make them good teachers."

"Kids are natural investigators," adds co-instructor Val Heine. "We want to foster their sense of wonder and knowledge of the natural world with the science teaching they receive."

Both instructors are UBC Faculty of Education alumna and are experienced science teachers. Heine also has a Science degree from the university.

In future, students who complete the course may also serve as a resource teacher to science teachers in the community. They will collaborate with teachers and assist them with content in planning science lessons. Many elementary teachers do not feel comfortable teaching science which can lead to textbook-driven science, Erickson says.

Enrolment for the Hands-On Science program at Science World is underway so that UBC students will have groups of budding scientists aged seven to 10 years ready to undertake a series of fun science experiments.

Denise Galipeau, a Pharmaceutical Sciences graduate student who volunteers with the program, says the value of the Hands On Science program was illustrated for her by a young investigator who was asked if she wanted to be a scientist when she grew up.

The little girl replied confidently that you don't need to be grown-up to be a scientist -- she already was one.

Classes are held in two terms -- January to March and March to June at Science World on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays from 4-5 p.m. The cost is $95 plus GST per term. For more information or to register call (604) 443-7505.

Collaboration for Kids is supported with funding from Imperial Oil Ltd.

For further information about Investigating Science with Children contact Gaalen Erickson at gaalen.erickson@ubc.ca.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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