Classroom boredom often preys on students in science classes due to the fact that students have to learn science in the most illogical way: repeating what written in a science book to memorize it without actual understanding of the subject. Nevertheless, you can still be the teacher of the year if you know what it takes to ignite hearts for science: teaching aids for science.
The need and importance of teaching aids for science
- Information is clear, precise and accurate when learned using teaching aids as they are able to break a big chunk of scientific concepts into smaller pieces of information, enable better grab of the matter.
- Teaching aids, based on the type used (we dig deeper about this right in the next section), can provide different stimulation to senses, real experience or opportunities to students to learn at their own pace.
- A lot of teaching aids for science involve the use of visual information. The human brain is extremely sensitive to pictures and able to process images 60,000 times faster than text. Teaching aids for science allow better retention of scientific concepts in long-term.
- Teaching aids for science, by accelerating a student’s learning process, can also result in a better achievement of learning objectives.
7 Approaches to Teaching Aids for Science
These 7 teaching aids for science we introduce in this article are largely based on Dale’s Cone of Experience.
Dale’s Cone of Experience, created by the American Educator – Edgar Dale, is a method to classify and category teaching aids based on learning experience and sense stimulation involved. Read more about Dale’s Cone of Experience
1. Radio Programmes
A prominent example of Radio Programmes as a teaching aid for science is the Radio Science Lesson created from the collaboration of UNICEF and several Non-governmental Development Organizations in Sierra Leone when the government shut down all school to curb the spread of Ebola in 2015
Pros: As the example shown, Radio Programmes can be effective teaching tools for science in remote areas or war-torn areas where opportunities for formal education are severely limited due to the paucity of school and teachers.
Cons: The downside is that as effective as it is, radio programmes broadcasting science facts cannot serve as an alternative to a science classroom. Another barrier is that the cost to establish a radio programme is not cheap and require collaborative efforts from various resources.
2. Still Pictures
On the basis of presentation, charts can be of the following kinds:
- Tree charts: To show various kinds or relationships.
- Classification charts: To present classifications e.g. plant kingdom or animal kingdom.
- Collages: Are those charts where information or pictures from other sources (newspaper, magazine, etc) are pasted.
- Flip charts: Are a series of charts which are shown one after the other. They are bound to make a flip book or put on a stand and flipped backward like calendar sheets.
Models represent real things but size and shape may change. They may be static, sectional or working. In a static model, parts of a system cannot be separated. If a model where all parts can be removed and replaced, it is a sectional model. Working models show actual operation of an object or process, e.g, conduction of electricity, body systems, etc.
Pros: Both Charts and Models are the most common teaching aids for science due to its high availability, low-cost preparation and can be effectively recycled.
Cons: Many charts can easily get lost in student’s yawns due to its repetitive format. Therefore, upon making a chart as a teaching aid for science, the teacher must take into serious consideration:
- the balance between text and pictures on a chart (e.g too much text can make the lesson double student’s boredom )
- the combination of colors
- the information presented.
3. Motion Pictures
Animated films as illustration
Animated learning videos are short cartoons or motion graphics that play as visual supporting tools for teachers. A short animated film can be introduced into the lesson to illustrate a particular point e.g. during the teaching of the digestive system, actions of enzymes in various organs can be shown using a film. The adoption of animation in education, especially in the context of a science classroom, is in fact, a strong method of teaching science subject.
Pros: Students dig animation! That is a big fact! Animation learning videos, created with a proper combination of engaging sounds and authentic visuals, are able to kindle student’s interest in scientific concepts by simplifying complicated concepts quickly and beautifully.
Cons: Animated films as the supplements for science class are often expensive as you will need the hands of the professionals for this.
- How to make animation for educational purposes work?
- How to make a series of animation for education on tight budget
Generally, documentary and interest films provide a background to science lessons. Science teaching can be improved using well-balanced documentary films on industrial and social themes e.g. pollution, population, hunting, or natural disasters. Documentaries can go beyond the core science lesson to be emotionally powerful vehicles that can transport students to other cultures and create an awareness of current global issues from the inside out through feeling and empathy. When enhanced with written reflection, films help students develop social and emotional learning in ways not available from textbooks or lectures.
4. Science Fairs
Pros: The power of science exhibition as a teaching aid for science lays in its inspiring nature. The exhibition gives students a great sense of ownership toward their science projects and increases student engagement in science by encouraging them to apply what they are taught in science class. Furthermore, science fairs involve much more than science, students have the chance to hone their presentation skills, researching skills, report writing skills, debating skills, etc. Proud faces and energetic faces of students painted across the science fair scene are always an exciting spectacle. Science is fair, therefore, should be recommended as the cornerstone of successful science teaching.
Cons: The major drawback for students is the time commitment. Since the projects are unique, students will have to carry out the experiments on their own time. This con conflict with other school assignments if not planned well. A science fair is also a huge commitment on the part of teachers. For every students, they need to assess if the project is acceptable, help with finding reliable information sources, and give feedback when a student encounters a problem. On top of that, there are numerous other responsibilities, involved with getting all the projects displayed and judged. In addition, organizing a school-sice science fair can sometimes require an unnecessarily large amount of finanvial resource which can be equally allocated to other teaching aids.
5. Field Trip
Pros: Student loves field trips. Without a doubt, a carefully planned educational field trip can be a great teaching aid for science. Students are exposed to new experiences that potentially broaden their horizons. Concepts that have already been learned in the classroom can be reinforced and students are provided with shared reference points that teachers can then refer to and use in future classes.
Cons: Beware of the underlying red flag! Fieldtrip can result in a heap of burdens for teachers (imagine managing 50 over-exciting students running around wildly for a whole day), a mere holiday for students, an expensive extravagance and bad publicity for a school, unless they are well-planned and motivated.
Excursions should be made with a definite purpose in mind to answer questions that are best settled by first-hand observations. Students should be aware of the purpose of the trip. The teacher should have knowledge on the place being visited and should ensure that there is plenty of opportunities to see and to ask questions. Furthermore, it is not necessary that a field trip has to be out of school or of long duration. It can always be carried out within school premises – in a field, to school museums, to science laboratories, etc. Field trips can be of immense value to the study of science. Probably, more time should be spent getting ready for an excursion and gathering deductions from it, than on the actual excursion.
6. Dramatic Participation (Roleplay)
It’s common knowledge that Drama and Science are as different as chalk and cheese and dramatics is only for languages. However, if you take a step back and a broader look, drama can be applied to primary classes as well. Science teacher can think of many topics which can be taught through role play or drama.
Pros: Dramatic Participation as teaching aids for science proves to be useful to teach very abstract and uninteresting ideas. Some topics which can be taught through dramatics are the solar system, ecosystem, nutrients, vitamins.
Furthermore, Roleplay in Science classroom can deliver various benefits regarding student’s interpersonal skill development including encouraging the student to interact with each other and create their own reality; raising student’s awareness of ethical and moral issues arising from science curriculum; helping students to have a better conceptual skils (with analogical roleplay)
Cons: Roleplay session in a science class, as appealing as it may sounds, can be very time-consuming and result in poor learning outcomes if not planned thoroughly.
Preparation for roleplay
Now this is an unexpectedly interesting teaching aid for science, so let’s dive deeper to see how you can become teacher of the year with this teaching aid and use this teaching aids the right way.
- Similar to the preparation for other teaching aids for science, Get your objectives for the science lesson down first. What do you want them to learn? Are the students needing to prepare a report or presentation about this later? Is this going to be part of a public performance? A bit of pre-planning here will help you keep the science lesson in focus while having some fun!
- Get practical; what constraints are there on the lesson? How much time do you have to put this together? Are the students going to be working in small groups or all together? What is your budget for materials?
- Before you run the role play, clear some time for your students to do their own research about the topic and give them an opportunity to bring their fresh ideas into the session
- Decide on the learning framework in your debrief after role-play session. Is this a class discussion or is it more of a reflection task? This might form part of the assessment component of your unit of work too.
Three ways to get students excited for science class with roleplay
- Story: Create a story around the role-play scenario you’re giving your students. Make it as immersive and realistic as possible. Your students could help make the storyboard for others to follow here too
- Props: Collect as many materials as you can to make the role-playing game as immersive as possible
- Simulatory audio tracks: Get audio tracks of the environment you’re simulating. You’d be amazed what you can find on sites such as freesound.org where you can use the collections of Creative Commons Licensed sounds to create an ambiance of the real thing
7. Direct Experience
Pros: Direct experience is the process of acquiring knowledge by fully and directly participating in an activity. Generally speaking, this produces more usable and vivid knowledge than learning about something with indirect experiences such as a game, video or book. The primary example of this teaching aid, despite being not new – classroom science experiment, still prove to be an incredibly effective means of helping students to actually apply what they have learned from textbook and lectures!
Cons: All such experiences may not be meaningful especially when the real things are too small or too big to comprehend e.g. airport, factory, atom, furnace, ecosystem, etc. The science teacher has to decide the type of direct experiences which will be useful for their students. Some examples are – phyllotaxy, types of leaves, the structure of flowers, common animals.
Essential rules when choosing teaching aids for science
As detailed in the early section, the choices for teachings aid for science are not limited, at all! However, the decision about which aid will be most helpful for a particular scientific topic to be taught in class. To avoid hastily adopting trendy teaching aids for science and suffering counterproductive consequences, there are a few simple rules to keep in mind when choosing teaching aids for science.
- A teaching aid for science should be affordable and should not be time-consuming.
- A teaching aid is not a substitute for teaching.
- “informative” and “Entertaining” must go hand in hand. Teaching aids not only need to fulfill teaching objectives for a particular subject but also need to create interest among students.