When Mr Jones Took Grade 5 to the Sciencentre

Year: 1999

Author: Lucas, Keith B.

Type of paper: Refereed paper

This paper reports a visit to an interactive science centre by a class of 10 year old children planned and implemented by a teacher identified as exemplary by the science centre staff. The visit was planned to be an integral part of the science program for the term, extending the range and type of science activities which were a feature of the school science program. A key objective of the teacher for the visit was that the children should learn something they did not know previously and have fun doing so. Data sources included observations of pre- and post-visit lessons, video and audio recordings of the teacher interacting with students during the visit, brief interviews with selected students immediately after they had interacted with exhibits in the science centre, and semi-structured interviews with six selected students and the teacher before and after the visit. The teacher's objective for the visit was understood by many of the students but his instruction to take special note of a small number of specific exhibits linked to the current school science program was largely forgotten by the students during the visit. There was evidence to support the claim that: learning occurred, including scientifically incorrect ideas gaining acceptance; students did not talk much among themselves about the science concepts of the exhibits, though they did discuss how to make the exhibits operate; the posted instructions / explanations at each exhibit were ignored by most students; and, post visit, students remembered what they did but had little recollection of anything that they had learnt during the visit. The teacher's activities during the visit predominantly involved sporadic and superficial questioning of students concerning their physical engagement with the exhibits. A major question arising from this research is whether there is a fundamental tension for students between "having fun" and "learning" - or as one child expressed it "the science centre is more fun than education," and whether the answer is the same for all students.