Teaching & Learning
DISCOVERING THE FUN OF SCIENCE WITH PRIMARY STUDENTS
General science education is having an important impact on Lingnan students as well as the wider community. Across two semesters in 2016/17, 70 Lingnan students shared scientific knowledge with around 90 primary students in three schools located in Tuen Mun.
“We were there to make children enjoy learning science. Our aim was to encourage them to learn and think,” said Mirth Tang, a Year 3 Lingnan student who participated in the course “Ecology: The Science of Environmental Issues” which has a Service-Learning component. Through converting trash into an erupting volcano with the children, he is passing the liberal arts traits of inquisitive and critical thinking to the little minds.
Serving a community need
Using trash to make volcanoes was one of the activities under the theme “Solid Waste Management”, in which Lingnan students taught primary students at RTC Gaia School how to reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose waste. In another project collaborated with H.K.E.C.A. Wu Si Chong Memorial School, Lingnan students explored the topics of “Animal Diversity”, “Mammals”, Aquaponics” and “Plants” with primary students through in-class activities and video production.
Although increasing importance has been placed on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education, statistics shows that the expressed “selfefficacy” in science of many primary school teachers is lower than for other subject areas and some even limit the time they spend on science in their classroom. By bringing positive experiences with science in primary schools, Prof Mark McGinley, the course instructor, hopes that more students will remain in the STEM pipeline.
Explaining scientific concepts to children can be challenging, especially for non-science majors. Yet, Lingnan students’ efforts turned out to be a huge success when the post-service survey indicated positive feedbacks from primary students in RTC Gaia School, H.K.E.C.A. Wu Si Chong Memorial School and Hing Tak School. “One of the students from RTC Gaia School even rated ‘Working with Lingnan students’ as being 200,000 on a scale of 1-10!” said Prof Mark McGinley.
Beyond teaching — an increased interest in science
Since most students at Lingnan take only one science course during their university study, there are limited opportunities to excite them about the field of science. During the course of preparing interesting and interactive classes for primary students, their own interest in science was aroused.
During in-class reflections, Lingnan students discussed how they tried to search for reliable information on the internet, sift through and organise relevant materials before presenting it to primary students. “Locating and processing scientific information is one of the most valuable skills that I expect my students to develop,” said Prof McGinley. In fact, most of the Lingnan participants had gained knowledge in science as a “teacher”. “I thought it was easy to teach basic knowledge about environmental pollution. Yet, what I knew was insufficient. I had to explore more about environment problems while preparing for class materials,” said Year 2 student Michelle Kwan.
A new understanding on education
For both Prof McGinley and the Lingnan students, working with RTC Gaia School was a unique and fascinating experience. As a non-traditional experiential school focuses on nature and not bound by rigid curriculum and discipline, its free learning style challenged the Lingnan students but many of them rose to the occasion and learned how to develop lessons that actively engaged the Gaia students. “From being extremely frustrated to genuinely enjoying the time spent with the kids, it has been a long yet unforgettable journey,” said Twinkie Wong. Some participants even identified the problems of traditional educational approach and understood more about the needs of children in their learning process.
The experience no doubt boosted Lingnan students’ communication skills and organisation skills. “My partner and I had to try the experiment a few times to ensure the primary students can achieve the result successfully. We learned to manage the classroom, worked with other group members in harmony and coped with unforeseen problems. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me,” said Year 2 student Alexis Au.
Looking ahead, Prof McGinley hopes that the development of the Science Unit will bring even more Service-Learning opportunities to Lingnan students and create positive changes in the community.
Lingnan students conducted scientific experiments with students in RTC Gaia School.
Under the supervision of Lingnan students, students from H.K.E.C.A. Wu Si Chong Memorial School
conducted interviews about the aquaponics system at Yan Oi Tong Community Centre.