Academic journal article Teaching Science

Where Does the Water Go? Development of Students' Questions through the Use of Their Photography of Local Water Catchments

Academic journal article Teaching Science

Where Does the Water Go? Development of Students' Questions through the Use of Their Photography of Local Water Catchments

Article excerpt

An invitation to be part of a small research project with science teacher educators focusing on the Australian Curriculum--Science as a Human Endeavour strand provided an opportunity for professional learning in science for an early career teacher working with Year 1-2 students.

This article explores how the use of students' photography of local water catchments helped to develop questioning and inquiry skills over the PrimaryConnections unit of 'Water works' (Academy of Science, 2012). Through the use of a class science journal the photographs provided a differentiated and inclusive means to engage and build students' interest in water as an important resource as students developed conceptual understandings about where water comes from and how science helps people manage resources.

INTRODUCTION

When I introduced myself to my early years class of six and seven year olds at the beginning of the year, my talk included information about the science lessons to come. There was a collective negative sigh, and a couple of voiced thoughts of "Oh no ... not science!" As I looked at their glum faces and lack of excitement about the coming science lessons, it was obvious that these students had very low expectations about what science learning was.

Clearly, inspiring positive attitudes towards science (one of my favourite subjects to teach) was going to be a challenge to teaching this group of students. My main aim in teaching science to this group of students was to awaken a sense of wonder, curiosity and discovery about the world we live in (Louv 2008). I also wanted to teach them to question everything. More than anything, I wanted my students to see themselves as young people who can positively and actively interact with our world, to develop positive perceptions of themselves as capable science learners and to begin to build a repertoire of lifelong learning skills that would allow them to connect to scientific thinking and ideas in real-world ways. I wanted to create learning opportunities which would involve active participation in highly engaging events and activities that would both inspire and provide a change in the students' perceptions of themselves as 'doing' science as opposed to someone 'being' a scientist; a perception which can be influenced by their life/world experiences (Gee, 2001; Bandura, Barboranelli, Vittorio & Pasterelli 2001; Archer et al., 2010).

As a beginning teacher in my second year in the classroom, I was extremely pleased to be invited to take part in a small project: Australian Curriculum--Science as a Human Endeavour (2014). For me, this was an opportunity to extend my own learning and teacher practice through discussion and participation with other teachers and colleagues focused on increasing student engagement and learning within the curriculum.

My participation in this project explored engaging students in learning about Science as a Human Endeavour (ACARA, 2014) through the PrimaryConnections unit of 'Waterworks' (Academy of Science, 2012). The unit was modified somewhat and re-designed to make use of opportunities to explore outdoor areas within the school and local waterways to help children connect to the wonder of nature and develop their questioning skills in authentic life contexts.

The choice to use digital photography and to have a particular focus on using oral language and discussion skills as a means to developing students' questions in this project came about due to the high number of students with low literacy skills in reading and writing. Using photography as a visual record of learning activities in the classroom had been a strategy that I had slowly incorporated into my planning across the curriculum earlier in the year. This provided multiple opportunities to use 'exploratory talk' to develop vocabulary and word understandings, to explore concepts, ideas and students' reasoning with their own understanding of these based on the evidence of photographic records (Dawes, 2004; Hackling, Smith & Murcia, 2010). …

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