Low cost approach to learning science

Low cost approach to learning science

R V M Chokkalingam stresses the importance of low cost teaching aids in science education.

Experiential Science Learning (ESL) is a system of philosophy that emphasises learning from direct first-person experience. It is the most effective way of learning through exploration, activity, and experimentation. It is all about personal close encounters with the content, process, and emotion of science. It is a holistic perspective that includes the self construction of knowledge. It is one of the critical pathways toward student science literacy. So, ESL is inductive, learner-centered and activity-oriented. It is an activity-based learning pedagogy.

The emotions, attitudes, and beliefs derived from ESL combine to form a learner’s science identity. In conventional learning, the needs of the organisation are the primary drivers of the learning content, design, delivery and assessment. ESL is the way to break out of the received conditioned teaching practices, which constrain a student’s development in schools. 

The present teaching method is oriented virtually and exclusively to meet external needs, not peoples’ individual needs and potential. ESL through hands-on discovery activities can be done in a variety of ways using everyday odds and ends as the raw material. The new mindset of low cost teaching aids facilitates innovative teaching paradigms that replace the old fashioned lecture format with hands-on learning. They make experiments more accessible to young children. Also, we do not need a lot of fancy equipment.  Science experiments are fun and can teach a lot about the world around us. With a little bit of time, and some curiosity as well as imagination, simple physics concepts can be demonstrated by using a few common household items. Simple ideas using readily available materials promote active process of learning science. The simplicity of the effects attracts the kid’s attention. 
Laboratory experience

Majority of rural schools depend on inexpensive teaching aids developed with relevant materials related to the learner’s environment. They will also become one of the possibilities to increase the laboratory experience with less cost and sweat. There is a need for growing use of low-cost teaching aids as settings for pre-service and in-service development for teachers. The pre-service and in-service training courses for science teachers are not always as practical as it might be. From ‘cook-book experiments’, we have to move towards science enquiry in action.

Science education improves by immersing learners in the process of Experiential Science Learning. Experience and observation are key to the scientific inquiry process. 

We have already empirical evidence that students who learn in an interactive environment have a better understanding of science. It is determined such students are better able to solve problems and have a higher level of conceptualisation in learning after participating in hands-on learning. Also this teaching strategy links activity, field, laboratory, library and classroom experiences with real life situations and applications.

The purpose of any experiential learning activity is to create an opportunity for valuable and memorable personal learning. They implicitly enable learning methods to fit a person’s preferred learning styles and natural choices. The learners are encouraged and helped to learn and develop in their own ways, using methods which they find most comfortable and therefore enjoyable. The learning by doing can be a solo activity or a collaborative effort. 

The ability to actually make things work is essential for true learning of science. Low-cost teaching aids not only help students understand science, but also give them a sense of achievement as they perform experiments for themselves and derive their own understanding based on observation. They prompt students to interact with them, ask questions and reinforce their own learning. They provide a positive emotional platform for future learning. 

The basic activities involved in inexpensive teaching aids facilitate children to test ideas, perform experiments, and make interesting discoveries. Both teachers and parents will find them in rewarding ways to provide quality learning experience for children. 

Models of rotational kinematics, centre of mass wobbler, clock face image, user levers, sound mirror, cycloid race, roll-up marble, energy conversion, swing on rollers, magnus effect, home movie,  minimum link, optical illusion, foil turbine, impact balls, sand pendulum, kaleidoscope, come back drum, Mobius strip, boomerang, loop-the-loop, double bubble, energy pyramid etc are things that can be made to pique a child’s interest. 
For younger crowd

For junior schoolchildren, engagement activities in physics can be easily made out of cardboard. Simple physics experiments to kids like sound gun, kazoo tube, anemometer, rainbow spinner, swimming fish, hovercraft, automata, periscope, pantograph, sundial, helicopter, pinhole camera etc. are easy to make, comfortable to handle and therefore retain excitement. Kids create their own personalized learning paths toward science understanding. 

The functional design of a teaching aid is most important for learning. A constant and intense experimentation using all methods and techniques at one’s disposal is very much essential. They are to be created in such a way, where children feel comfortable to explore and learn science. A self made teaching aid out of known materials, when experimented, will help students in quicker and easier understanding of science through first-hand experience. It can be used by classes and  as props for learning. They need to relate the experiments to everyday things, and on understanding how things work. 

Low-cost teaching aids facilitate active experimentation, concrete experience, reflective observation and abstract conceptualisation. They are flexible with open possibilities, and offer integral growth and discovery. They develop knowledge, skills and emotions via experience. These learning activities are a means to an end, not an end in itself. However, I believe in the learners: they can and will make Experiential Science Learning work for them.

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