INQUIRY PROJECT, June 25, 1999


Lynn M. Foley Providence Adult Learning Center, 331-0766

Question How can I help my students be motivated to study science? How can I present GED science topics and terminology in ways that address learning styles and improve retention of science information?

Process My first step was getting my students to recognize science and ask questions about everyday happenings. They brainstormed a list of science questions that they were curious about and interested in.

Next, we studied the scientific method at length and applied it, in turn, to each of the monthly science topics that we chose from the brainstormed list. The chosen ones are as follows:

(Originally, I wanted to create a bulletin board each month with the science question displayed in pictures. However, I was not successful every month! Two out of the six monthly topics had the visual display on the bulletin board. Next year I hope to be more consistent.) For each step in the scientific method, (observation, hypothesis, prediction, experiment, conclusion) students were asked to record their thoughts and observations. To accommodate different learning styles and abilities, students were encouraged to write, draw, create, or give oral reports on their findings.

OBSERVATION: Students brainstormed the question, posed other related questions, related the question to past experiences, drew pictures, and talked a lot!

HYPOTHESIS: At this point, students came up with some good educated guesses and some off-the-wall answers. Some researched the question and shared the information with the class.

PREDICITON: "If the leaves are changing colors because of __________, then we can test that by doing _________ and ____________ should happen."

This step proved to be the most difficult for my students. At this point, they assumed I would tell them exactly what was happening and why, show them a related experiment and wrap everything up! They found it very difficult to come up with logical ways to prove their theories.

EXPERIMENT: Through student input and using research materials, we came up with an appropriate experiment to end each unit. At the end of three of the units, other classes, (ESL/GED classes from within our program) were invited to do the related experiment with us. My students successfully brought the invited guests up-to-date, and peer-taught them what they had learned throughout the month. Peer-tutoring proved to be an important componet of the project because it helped solidify the lessons firmly in the students' minds. I had originally wanted to do this peer tutor session after each unit, but was unsuccessful because of scheduling conflicts with other classes. Next year I hope to organize this more efficiently.

CONCLUSION: Students summarized their thoughts and findings with enthusiasm. Even the experiments that were unsuccessful generated many pictures and writings describing what should be done differently, and why they thought things went wrong.


WHAT I ACCOMPLISHED: I helped my students to think about science and to see everyday science. After reviewing their science journals with them three times during each unit, I found that they are more aware of things happening around them. They asked more questions at the end of the year than at the beginning, questions about how things work and why.

I think I have motivated my students. Again, through their journals and conversations they have expressed more excitement about discovery and their ability to find answers on their own. They claim to be less intimidated by science; both textbook and hands-on.

Three students wrote that they felt more successful during these science units because of the way they were encouraged to report on what they had learned. Of these three, one chose to give oral reports, and the other two drew pictures to explain the learned concepts.

Through the peer-tutoring sessions we had, students discovered not only how well they had learned the concepts, but that they were able to teach someone else. This helped them gain confidence in their abilities and helped with retention of skills.

HOW THIS PROJECT CHANGED MY PRACTICE: I thoroughly enjoyed teaching science this way. The students were more enthusiastic and motivated to learn. I stopped answering questions and waited for them to discover the answers on their own. At first, this was very frustrating for them (and difficult for me), but overall I think it made them more responsible for their own learning.

Because the majority of my students said they learned and retained more information during this project, I applied the same ideas to other subjects. I asked them to do more writing / drawing / demonstrating in math. This has worked well so far. I have seen improvements in their desire to work through math problems and in their ability to correct their own mistakes.

WHAT I WILL DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT YEAR: I liked the way the bulletin board display introduced the science topic for the month. It got the students attention and kept it throughout the unit. I hope to have one prepared for every topic next year.

I would also like to find other opportunities for my students to be peer-tutors. Although they were generally nervous at the beginning of each sharing session, when it was completed every student said they gained confidence and learned more (about themselves and about science) from the experience.

I did not give the students as many GED practice materials to go along with this project as originally planned. Next year, I hope to find more questions that correlate more closely with the topics covered. On the other hand, perhaps we will try our hand at making-up our own GED questions. I hope that this will help the students transfer the information they learn through hands-one science to the GED science test.

Bibliography - print resources

Gardner, Martin; ENTERAINING SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS WITH EVERYDAY OBJECTS, Dover Publications, Inc., New York; 1960, 1981.

Kenda, Margaret and Williams, Phyllis S.; SCIENCE WIZARDRY FOR KIDS, Barron's, 1992

Sarquis, Mickey, Terrific Science Press; SCIENCE PROJECTS FOR HOLIDAYS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR; McGraw-Hill, 1999

Church, Jok; YOU CAN WITH BEAKMAN & JAX, SCIENCE STUFF YOU CAN DO, Universal Press Syndicate Inc., 1992

Church, Jok; YOU CAN WITH BEAKMAN & JAX, MORE SCIENCE STUFF YOU CAN DO, Universal Press Syndicate Inc., 1994

Churchill, E. Richard; AMAZING SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS WITH EVERYDAY MATERIALS, Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.,1991

Walpole, Brenda; 175 SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS TO AMUSE AND AMAZE YOUR FRIENDS, Grisewood & Dempsey Ltd., 1988

Perry, Phyllis J.; 365 SCIENCE PROJECTS & ACTIVITIES, Publications International, Ltd., 1996

VanCleave, Janice Pratt; TEACHING THE FUN OF PHYSICS, Prentice Hall Press, 1985

Bibliography - on-line resources

Education World - site reviews: a search for "science" yields thousands of sites, including those geared for K-12 and 'kids of all ages.' Browse as you can.

Federal Resources for Educational Excellence - Science - [ Biological and life sciences | Earth science | Ecology | Geology | History | Oceanography | Paleontology | Pharmacology | Space sciences ]

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