|Outreach N° 86 - Learning by Doing - Leaflets on Pressure and Water Technologies (OUTREACH - UNEP - WWF, 64 p.)|
The OUTREACH Learning-By-Doing leaflets have been especially designed for middle and high school teachers in Low Income Countries. It has been recognised that good learning materials are scarce in many classrooms in the South. Textbooks are not always available. Those that are available are not always relevant to the most pressing problems in the Developing World, including health and environmental problems and sustainable development. The purpose of the Learning-By-Doing leaflets is to help fill the needs, at least in small part, of middle school and high school teachers in Low Income Countries by providing inexpensive, classroom-ready materials that will help to foster a scientific attitude in students. They are meant to supplement and enrich the science curriculum, not replace it, and they are meant to be used in any way that is most useful to the classroom teacher. In other words, they can be adapted, adopted or added to in order to meet local needs. They may be used, copyright-free, for any non-profit purpose in Low Income Countries. The Learning-By-Doing leaflets will be published for profit in the North, and profits will be used for the further development and publication of leaflets on other topics for use in the South.
Fostering a scientific attitude
The philosophy behind the science leaflets is that science teaching should not be telling students what to think and believe. Rather, science teaching should foster a scientific attitude - the attitude which appreciates the value of forming ideas based upon observations and reliably testing information, and being content to say, "I don't know" until the evidence is sufficient to answer the question. Science teaching should allow students to find out things for themselves through scientific inquiry. The Learning-By-Doing leaflets, as the name implies, include a variety of hands-on activities designed to foster a scientific attitude towards solving the most pressing health and environmental problems facing people all over the world. This scientific attitude can be useful in all areas and levels of inquiry in the classroom and for problem-solving in every day life as well.
Each leaflet is self-contained. Teachers can pick and choose the topics that they would like to cover to supplement their science programme and to help meet the curricular specifications of their local education ministries. In addition, each of the leaflets and accompanying teacher materials provide a number of suggestions for additional, more in-depth activities, so that the leaflets are adaptable to a wide range of classroom levels, from primary to high school.
The leaflets are adaptable in many different climatic and cultural situations, since their focus is on basic scientific principles and scientific inquiry. A particular technology may be appropriate in one area, but not in another. Therefore, the focus of the leaflets is not on providing information about specific technologies, such as how best to plant a specific crop. Rather, the leaflets provide some basic scientific information and tools of scientific inquiry which students can use to closely examine technologies being used in their own areas and to test and perhaps improve upon these technologies.
The content of each Learning-By-Doing leaflet cover two sides of a sheet of paper. When folded down the middle, it becomes a four-page leaflet. The materials required in the activities are readily available, even in the most rural areas, and are not costly.
When engaged in the tasks outlined in the leaflets, the students are in contact with their surroundings directly, through the senses, because they deal with concrete things in the world around them. Moreover, the leaflets cover very practical problems in the students' own lives, especially those related to health, the environment and sustainable development. The students learn through their own investigations of real problems, which is as sound a basis for education as one could desire.
Children demonstrate a natural curiosity about the natural world around them. In their every day lives, children like to watch things grow and develop. They like to manipulate things and observe what happens. The Learning-By-Doing leaflets take advantage of the natural curiosity of children by focusing it towards learning how to solve practical environmental and health problems. Students are allowed to take an active learning role by actively constructing their own meanings in the classroom. When allowed to make discoveries on their own, students become excited about the learning process and are self-motivated to learn more on their own.
Teachers the world over complain that there is no time to teach science, since basic literacy is their main concern. The health and environmental problems that are the focus of the leaflets can be a suitable "unifying" subject in the classroom, as it has many links with other subjects. In the course of their investigations, students have many chances to practise their reading, writing and speaking skills. They are also encouraged to tap into and build upon the knowledge of their elders, and to bring home and make practical use of what they have learned in the classroom.