Here’s a workshop activity that I have been using recently that seems to go down well with students and their teachers.
As learners enter the room, they find this image waiting for them with the instruction: What’s going on here…what questions are you asking yourself?
I then harvest comments:
- Some numbers are going up…some are staying the same…some are going down…
- Is it to do with the breeding of a particular creature?
- England seems to be doing worse than Wales, Ireland and Scotland
- It seems to be shifting north and west
- Why are numbers increasing around The Wash?
- Are the decreases in Ireland around Dublin and Cork?
- What kind of a creature could this be?
I introduce this image without comment:
I say: What do you know…what do you need to know?
- OK so it’s a bird…what kind of a bird is it?
- Why are its breeding numbers going down in some areas and not in others?
- What’s it perched on?
- What’s in its beak?
- What kind of habitat does it like?
- What does it feed on?
- Is it here all the time or is it a migrant?
I then drop this article by Michael McCarthy on the table and say – This might help – one member of your team skim read – use a highlighter – and see if there’s any useful data here…
And then I say: What do you know…what do you need to know? To which they respond:
- This is a willow warbler
- It comes to these islands from west Africa to breed each spring
- Its habitat is changing
- Its breeding numbers are falling
- Its having to move farther north and west to breed
- Is this to do with climate change?
- Is there anything that can be done…is being done to stop this from happening?
And now the questions to stimulate enquiry-mindedness: what might you investigate to get to the bottom of this situation…what hypotheses are you generating?
The following is a sample of the ideas that have been generated recently by students – not provided by myself as the teacher:
- Look into the breeding cycle of the bird
- Research its habitat and see if this is being destroyed
- Find out about what it feeds on and whether this is changing
- Explore climate changes in the UK during the last twenty years
- Find out more about the area around The Wash
- Compare climate and habitat in Scotland, Wales and Ireland with England
- Research the impact of urbanization and pollution on wildlife
And this – to me – is real science; where students are stimulated to ask questions and eager to come up with their own answers and solutions because their teacher provides enough to stimulate curiosity but withholds plenty so that real learners can make the links and connections for themselves – capitalising on what they know already, backing their hunches and using the plethora of information that’s out there with discernment and discrimination.
You might like to define recipe science for yourself.