Simple ways to blend fun with learning
Two schools in Tak province are imparting science, maths and arts lessons to kindergarten pupils, through innovative waysWithout a laboratory for experiments and other tools, how can pupils in remote areas of the country learn science and technology? Forget labs, teachers in Tak province are using unique teaching techniques to enable their kindergarten students to understand simple facts of science, without uttering the word "science".
A single leaf of a tree is used to encourage a group of kindergarten-2 students at Maesalidluangwittaya School in Tha Song Yang district to think and search for knowledge on their own. The leaf could offer several lessons about science and mathematics. The students could also enjoy art at the same time.
Rafting activity is being used to enable learning for another group of kindergarten-2 students from Banmaelamao School in Mae Sot district.
Located in mountainous areas, these schools do not have well-equipped labs like those in urban areas. However, the want has been turned into an opportunity. They have many other ways of imparting learning about life science and mathematics around and outside the schools' compounds.
The Nation, other newspapers and TV channels visited both schools recently.
Each of some 20 Karen pupils at Maesalidluangwittaya School was offered different kinds of leaves and each of the pupils chose one of them. Sorada Polsen, their teacher, told them to find the trees around the compound that the leaves in their hands belonged to and to sketch the trees. This part was about art, muscular development and physical movements. Then they came back to the class and talked about the aspects of the trees and their leaves. That is how Sorada teaches them science. The shapes of the leaves were compared with geometric shapes. Here, the pupils talked about a story of maths. At the end of the class, each student hammered leaf prints on pieces of cloth to develop art skills.
"This integrated learning activity was targeted to train them how to search for information and knowledge, estimate answers, differentiate aspects of things on their own and encourage them to ex-plain what they've learned to others rather than giving the students the knowledge directly, which they could just memorise," Sorada said.
She added that they showed much greater progress in their development. They boldy answered her questions and expressed themselves. They did assignments more systematically.
The school's director, Suchet Rattanasatian, said the new learning styles suited the Karen people's nature because they liked art, music, sports and moving their body. Learning by exploration made Karen students happy.
Meanwhile, Banmaelamao's students learned science and maths along with getting to know eco-tourism, safety measures for rafting and environmental conservation through a rafting activity at a resort. They are helped by "teacher-parents" who have volunteered to assist Patchara Angulakajorn, the teacher of the class.
LEARNING OUTSIDE CLASSROOMS
A group of 25 students learned about the aspects and benefits of wearing helmets and life vests at the first station. At the second station, they learned about paddles and how to use them, followed by learning about the benefits of using a raft at the last station. They then enjoyed their rafting.
The teachers of both classes heard lots of questions as the lessons made the learners think and express themselves. Also, the teachers encouraged them to speak out their doubts.
"Learning outside classrooms are more exciting to me," said Non, a six-year-old schoolboy from Banmaelamao School.
"The external assessment team was surprised by our kindergarten students' reaction as they showed no fear of strangers and answered their questions fluently and confidently," said Patchara.
Ratana Sukanta, 33, a farmer who is also a teacher-parent at Banmaelamao, said more than 10 parents took turns to join the classes. She did so once or twice a month. She found that the pupils learned with more enjoyment and with better development.
Both schools are among more than 100 schools that have implemented the integrated learning project with kindergarten students in Tak Primary Education Service Area Office 2. The science and maths integrated learning project has been brought to 35 pilot schools by the Institute for Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology (IPST) since 2009. Kindergarten teachers have been trained annually about new teaching techniques. Later, the office's director Tongsuk Yoosri expanded the project to all the schools with kindergarten under its supervision.
"We're trying to expand it to students in primary and secondary education levels," he said. "It's helped foster a good attitude towards science in our students."
Tepkanya Promkatkeaw, academic staff at the Department of Primary Science (Early Childhood) at IPST, said: "We're not emphasising on high-tech tools or chemical substances or complicated instructional media, but things surrounding them, such as leaves and stones. This will give them good basics of science that will be beneficial for them to develop thinking skills and practise solving problems."
Kanyarat Boonmaleerat, the office's educational supervisor, said she helped the teachers to include new teaching techniques in the kindergarten's six major development activities - body movement, experience promotion, creativity, free activities, outdoor activities and educational games. She also guided and coached them to ensure they could teach effectively.
The project has been run as pilot schools in Rayong as well.