I take my hat off to class teachers working in mainstream education. I am definitely best at working with small groups of children. By this I mean up to about four children! After this number, I start to feel I have to plan ‘filler’ activities for one set of children to do while I concentrate on the others. And that’s not why I teach science to home-educated children, and I can imagine its certainly not what the parents of these children want.
On Wednesday I was tired and I hadn’t fully prepared my materials. Everyone helped me to cut and paste some pictures of the water cycle on card. That took up a good half an hour before we did anything that I had planned.
I also planned an activity that was far too difficult for this group. I expected the children to copy contour maps with average rainfall and average temperatures for Australia. I wanted to use these maps to discuss floods and drought, but we will have to cover this another way.
We did manage to have some discussion about the water cycle, and to make our rain gauges. We have just come through a week with quite a bit of rain. I hope the next week will gift us some precipitation to measure.
Some children filled out sheets to help them to think about the experiment: what variables might affect the results and how they could keep as much as possible constant.
We also watched a couple of good videos/animations about the water cycle and the different types of rain:
Revolution (Life Cycle of a Drop of Water) on Vimeo
Friday’s class went better although my own children were not in great moods and I particularly found the presence of my middle son distracting and disruptive. Nevertheless, we talked about the scientific method, poured water on our sedimentary rock models to simulate weathering and erosion (because the older children had missed this) and went on to cover much the same material as in the Wednesday class. We briefly talked about how the government might try to predict and prepare for floods, but by this point the children were not paying much attention so I gave up my losing battle.
I believe that the best way to learn science is to have hands-on experience but I can’t really bring a flood or a drought into the classroom. So how can I nudge the children into thinking about, and learning about floods and droughts? Reading or seeing eyewitness accounts is one possible way. Bringing some plants along would be an additional visual aid. It would also be great to find a computer game or simulation where your land, crops or livestock get affected by extreme weather. I might look out for something like this.
So far, the books I have found about natural disasters have been a bit dry. I borrowed a copy of ‘Australian Weather Disasters’ from the library, and we also have a back copy of Science Illustrated with a feature on how to survive catastrophic events. I can copy pages of this (for personal use) if anyone is interested.
I also found some Australian Federal Government resources online about disaster prediction and management. There is even a Disaster Resilience Education for Schools website with a few games on. If your children have a look at this website please let me know what you think of it.