Children’s involvement in science is increased when they have an opportunity to make decisions about science-based issues that have consequences for their lives.
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This research focuses on students making evidence-based decisions based on their science knowledge and how some acted on this knowledge. The context was volcanoes, using resources sourced from the Science Learning Hub. The Hub videos help provide teacher and students with knowledge and skills.
Seven teachers from two primary schools taught a unit on volcanoes that also focused on the potential social risks. Data was collected through interviews. Unit plans and samples of student work were collected. Data analysis was guided by the research question: What types of science evidence do young children provide when discussing potential social risks of volcanoes?
The research demonstrated that there are different kinds of scientific evidence that children can understand and use to engage with the social aspects of a science-related issue.
Evidence that sets the issue in a place and time
Teachers asked the children to engage in the Volcano hunt and Identifying volcanic rocks activities. These activities enabled young children to establish and conclude that they were living in a volcanic area.
The use of observation evidence to make science-based judgements
With teacher guidance on how volcanologists locate, describe and categorise rocks using observational data, the children were able to present data and findings about their rock specimens that reflected how volcanologists work. The Geology in the field video clip reminded them of the scientific skills to be used and the Lost – a hot rock activity required that they present data in a scientific manner.
Using evidence to make decisions and take action
At a more sophisticated level, children can use their science understandings to make decisions and take action. In one instance, children used their knowledge about lava flow to identify the 5 km radius where evacuation would occur to make emergency plans for their school. Some children planned/made emergency kits for their home.
The children in this study developed their ability to use the language and ideas of science to discuss the potential risk and consequences of a volcanic eruption. Some used scientific data to explain and justify their decisions in planning a disaster kit for a volcanic episode. This research has demonstrated that, when children are made aware of the science and social dimensions of an issue, they can use scientific evidence in their decision-making and action.
Hodson, D. (2002). Some thoughts on scientific literacy: Motives, meanings and curriculum implication. Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, 3 (1).
Sadler, T. (Ed.). (2011). Socio-scientific issues in the classroom. Dordrecht: Springer.