One of the joys of working in a University environment, though one I suspect is no longer available, is the rich variety of work you have the opportunity to engage in. Donna Satterthwait is a brilliant science educator and one whom it has been my privelege to work with. Even before I arrived at UTas, she ran a science fair as part of the primary science education programme. The purpose of the science fair was a brilliantly organised event that truly engaged primary education students in science, teaching and children. Just imagine a large room full of 300 primary aged students in small groups engaging in basic hands on science activity. It is an electric moment when you first enter the space and watch both the pre-service teachers and primary students so immersed in the business of doing science.
The poster we presented in 2009, at the UTas Teaching Matters Conference, tried to capture some of that excitement, but also explore the theory behind why this, well it just works.
by Donna Satterthwait and Karin Oerlemans
Over the last four years, the postgraduate primary teacher accreditation course (B.Teach.) has required pre-service teachers to participate in the university’s science fair, an event sponsored jointly by the Faculties of Education, and Science, Engineering and Technology. Many of these pre-service teachers are hesitant about the teaching of science, displaying the same trepidation as that commonly reported of primary teachers in schools. To address the negative attitude and lack of confidence, the science teacher education staff developed a sequence of authentic tasks that required immersion in the act of planning, presenting, and evaluating a science lesson based on a single science concept and activity. The pre-service teachers enacted the lesson at least six times, each time with a different small group of local upper primary students over a two day period. Since around 1200 school children attend this event annually, the pre-service teachers necessarily interacted with children of diverse interests and abilities. Data collected from questionnaires, interviews, and unsolicited emails indicate that the pre-service teachers benefited greatly from this intense experience, an experience that demanded considerable energy and focus. Perhaps because of this intensity, they emerged surprised that they enjoyed the ‘science’ and were more confident with science pedagogy.