Are you a teacher? And do you share that science education for high ability children is a completely different facet of education? Yes, it’s more than just doing experiments and learning facts. The best approach would be to blend the various aspects of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) while solving problems in the real world. The key solutions lie in project and problem-based learning and allowing robotics to play a vital role. The situation in schools is not very encouraging as science instruction and actual scientific works find no common ground. Teachers need to help mould children to be scientists who are free to experiment and find answers and solutions to those problems that are still unresolved.
First let us understand the concepts of problem and project based learning. Project-based learning is a teaching model in which the learner creates a unique product that meets specific learning goals. This teaching model could be a book, website or game. Problem-based learning is a subgroup under project-based learning where the learner solves real world issues that are directly tied to their learning goals.
Next we will delve into how science education can be more hands-on and minds-on? At the basic level students should be encouraged to read and do worksheets as this can throw up questions in their mind. Next observing a video or demonstration can be a supplement followed by doing a hands-on activity. A example of this could be doing a balloon-rocket to demonstrate kinetic and potential energy. Next step is doing a step-by-step experiment, which is not really doing what scientists should do but more just about following instructions. Now that brings us to the top level which is problem-based learning (PBL).
Bringing in a culture change in how we teach is paramount. There should be paradigm shift from being a traditionalist to a constructivist teacher who encourages teamwork, act as facilitators and guides, and model science classrooms along real scientific environments. Science classrooms should foster creativity, curiosity, skepticism (which is often taught against) and tolerance for ambiguity.
By integrating STEM subjects in science education for high ability learners we create tremendous opportunities for learning. The engineering aspect is almost completely forgotten in K12 schools but now a program called CREST-M is included in math curriculum that encourages students to program robots to solve real world science problems. That leads us to robotics, which is fundamentally PBL, and integrates all aspects of STEM. Highly gifted children and teens should be encouraged to participate in robotics competitions. These help increase scores in spatial and creativity assessments, draws students to show interest in STEM fields and are motivated to learn mathematics. STEM is about integrating art and creativity, which is essential for project-based learning.
We hope you have some more information and will soon be able to make your science education even more suitable for the high ability children.