Akshaya Foundation School, Hyderabad
3 August 2017
Small Science Class 2 – Topic 2 – My Body
Small Science Class 3 – Chapter 1 – So many living things!
Small Science Class 4 – Chapter 1 – Sun, wind, clouds and rain
Small Science at Akshaya
At Akshaya Foundation School in Nallagandla, on the outskirts of Hyderabad, two Science teachers of the primary section have been brave and enthusiastic enough to start implementing the Small Science curriculum, in addition to taking care of their regular responsibilities as full time teachers. Ms. Sheeja implements the curriculum in one Grade 2 classroom while Ms. Sudhamayee does it in two divisions each of Grades 3, 4 and 5. Ms. Sheeja is class teacher for her division of Grade 2, i.e. she teaches all the subjects to her class of students, while Ms. Sudhamayee teaches science for Grades 3, 4 and 5. This year the school is continuing with their term books, which contain a science section, hence the Small Science curriculum is implemented as an addition to the more traditional textbook.
Just after they had finished administering their school exams, the teachers resumed activities from Small Science. When I and Jayashree went to their classrooms last week Ms. Sheeja was working with her students on how to make paper dresses of different kinds for pencil dolls. One challenge they faced was to use a folded sheet to design and cut two sides of the dress joined at the shoulders. With some help and demonstrations, the children soon came up with adorable colorful dresses worn over dolls made by sticking two pencils crisscrossing at right angles and tied together by a rubber band.
With the excited students eager to show their work, I could not sit still either (for the ex-teacher in me still wants to interact with students at every given moment). I thought I would try taking the next objective of the lesson, which was to familiarize students with new words like ‘sleeves’ and ‘sleeveless’, and to compare the lengths of different sleeves. It was fun to make the students do a real life analysis of the dresses we were all wearing and compare them with what they had made, to learn the word ‘sleeve’, to understand what it looked like in real dresses and in the paper dresses they had made, and then go on to seriate sets of each kind by length. It was a great delight to know from Ms. Sheeja, and also supported by her cheerful students, that they enjoy activity-based classes a lot.
Next, Ms. Sudhamayee got her students interested by incorporating drawings in her class with the 3rd graders (3A). The assignment that she had undertaken with her class on the day of her visit was to read the descriptions and find animals in the surroundings that match with them. However, since Ms. Sudhamayee was not sure that students could find animals on their own, she put up the names of the animals on the board and asked the students to make drawings of those animals. The students happily copied drawings of the animals, which were conveniently available in their term books, and proudly showed them off to me and Jayashree.
Though the activity was enjoyable we were perplexed how to encourage students to observe and draw from nature and then express their keen and original observations in words.
After this we went to Ms. Sudhamayee’s class with the 4th graders (4A) where they had to plot their rain gauge measurements for one week. Because of the chasllenge of placing the rain gauge on the terrace where construction work was still in progress, the measurements had been done by the teacher herself. The students copied the readings faithfully and plotted the bar graph after converting millimeters to centimeters. Ms. Sudhamayee had given them prior practice in reading their scales (short rulers). Students were mostly quite good with plotting and with converting the units. They could also answer questions based on the graphs like, on which days it had rained, which days it had not rained, why the water level had decreased sometimes, etc.
These experience gave us a few insights into the places we need to work on to make it easier for the teacher to implement Small Science which, at present, is done in addition to their earlier existing curriculum. It is imperative for the Small Science curriculum that teachers and students are well aware of the objective of each class. Otherwise the potential benefits of this curriculum get diluted. This is especially so because the traditional curriculum relies heavily on copying and memorising while we are trying to move the focus to observing, doing and analysing. We feel an imminent need for working on this issue gradually. For a start we decided to have a WhatsApp group connecting the older teachers who have implemented Small Science in their classes with the newer members. Most of us get anxious when we try to implement new things. We need a support system that understands and empathizes with the problems that new teachers face, and includes peers experienced enough to guide them in this journey. We hope that we will be able to share our best practices and success stories via this platform and keep inspiring each other.