Hands-on Activities in Science

EDU 633

Berry College Course Syllabus  

Instructor:      Dr. Sam Hausfather                  Spring 2001    

Catalog Description:

Use of hands‑on methods to broaden knowledge in selected integrated science areas and constructivist learning theories. Ample opportunities to experience and design hands‑on science activities for classroom use. Creation of integrated, investigative projects for implementation in classrooms.

Required Text:

Osborne, R., & Freyberg, P. (1985).  Learning in science: The implications of children’s science.  Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Articles distributed by professor and students (see Required Student Readings below).

Purpose of Course:

American eighth-graders slipped to 15th among 38 countries in scores on science in the 1999 Third International Mathematics and Science study (TIMSS).  Of greater concern, students tested as fourth-graders in 1995 and again as eighth-graders in 1999 dropped from third to 11th place in science. Why are their peers in other countries learning at a faster rate than American students?

Constructivist theory states that people learn by actively constructing knowledge and by weighing new information against their previous understandings.  Teachers must be prepared to present new information with appreciation for students’ previous experiences, incorporating new material into a larger, more complex integrated curriculum.  Teachers should be able to present this information in a format of active exploration of subject content within interdisciplinary investigative experiences. 

The purpose of this course is to assist you in acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary in developing your pupils’ abilities and wonder of investigating science.  The course will focus on developing content knowledge, “the head;” constructivist models of teaching, “the hands;” and the values inherent in active approaches to science, “the heart.”

Course Objectives:  (M.Ed. program objectives designated as BC)

1.  Broaden content knowledge in selected integrated science areas. (BC 3)
2.  Demonstrate knowledge of constructivist learning theories which are of special concern to students at various grade levels.  (BC 1,5,6)
3.  Plan instruction to include hands-on, minds-on teaching strategies. (BC 2,5,10)
4.  Understand the implications of children’s conceptions of science.(BC 1,3,4)
5.  Learn to develop and create integrated investigative projects as part of an interdisciplinary unit for implementation in the classroom.  (BC 2,5,7)

Expected Outcomes:

1.     Through weekly journal entries, reflect on understandings of content knowledge and learning theories and implications for classroom instruction (Obj. 1,2).
2.     Create hands-on minds-on lesson plans that incorporate constructivist learning theories (Obj. 2,3)
3.     Interview a child and analyze their responses in terms of conceptions of science (Obj. 4)
4.     Research the current literature concerning misconceptions within a content area of science (Obj. 1,4).
5.     Create an integrated investigative project as part of an interdisciplinary unit (Obj. 3,5).

Instructional Methods:

This course will build on the content knowledge in science and review and reinforce teachers’ abilities to utilize constructivist learning techniques.  The content in science will focus on the biological and environmental sciences integrated with physical and earth sciences.  The program theme will be on systems and interactions of the abiotic/biotic world with our senses, specifically the sense of sight.  The course will include experiences in utilization of resources, especially the use of innovative projects such as GEMS, ESS, and AIMS.  New technologies will be introduced, including innovative science programs and Internet resources and simulations.

Attendance Policy:

Students are expected to attend all sessions.  One absence will be permitted with appropriate excuse; more than one absence will negatively effect your grade for this course.

Course Assignments/ Performance-based Assessments

1.   Weekly journal entries responding to understandings of the day’s science content activities and the readings, including reflections on the activities and discussions of the day, brief summary of readings with your reaction and questions or ideas it brings up, and something it brings up that you want to talk about and/or incorporate in your own classroom.

2.   Create four lesson plans that incorporate constructivist learning theories in an area of science content and share them with the class.

3.   Interview a student about a particular concept in science and analyze their responses in terms of their conceptions or misconceptions.  Write a 2-3 page description of their key responses, concepts revealed, and your reflections on the process and insights.

4.   Research the current literature concerning misconceptions within a content area of science.  Write a 4-6 page summary of this research in APA style.

5.   Create an integrated investigative project as part of an interdisciplinary unit for a 3-4 week period.  Include theme, webbing, overview chart, lesson plans, literature connections, and evaluation techniques. 

Description of Field Experience:

This course requires application and synthesis of course material in a classroom setting. Practicing teachers can use their current classroom setting.  If you are not currently teaching, you must attain a field experience placement.  See your course instructor or the director of field experiences to request a field experience. 

Evaluation Components and Grading Scale:        

Journal & responses to readings & activities                                        15%               �
Student Interview                                                                                           15%               �
Misconceptions research                                                                                 20%
Integrated lesson plans                                                                                   15%               �
Integrated Investigative Project                                                         35%                

Grading Scale:
90-99 = A
80-89 = B
70-79 = C
below 70 = F   

Daily Class Schedule:                                                                                           Assignment Due

Jan. 11:    Welcome, expectations, survey
Discuss children & science & standards
ESS Optics: initial explorations

Jan. 18:    Surface prior knowledge: light & colors                                                 Ch.1,2, App.A
ESS Optics: Problems & Puzzles; Scientific Convention                              
Discuss Children’s ideas in science

Jan. 25:    ESS Optics:  Color; data collection and analysis                                                    Light
Interviewing children                                                                                           Listening to Children
Children’s and scientific concepts of light

Feb. 1       GEMS Color Analyzers                                                                                                Ch. 3,4
Discuss: Language and children’s ideas & interviews
Shadow activities

Feb. 8:      Anatomy of the eye                                                                                                      Ch. 5,6
Vision tests                                                                                                                       Student Interview
Discuss: Using Prior Knowledge as a basis                                              Alternative conceptions

Feb. 15:    ESS Optics: Refraction                                                                                                Ch. 7,8
Discuss:  Generative learning; constructivism                                          Constructivist view of sci
Feb. 22:    GEMS More than Magnifiers: Lenses & Telescopes                       Develop theme-based…
Discuss creating projects & theme study                                                                Blended Science
Internet resources                                                                                                                       

Mar. 1:     Annenberg/CPB Private Universe                                                                         Ch. 9,10
GEMS Earth, Moon & Stars                                                         Teaching strategies for understanding
Constructivist lesson planning

Mar. 8:     GEMS Height-o-meters                                                                                                Ch. 11
AIMS Out of this World                                                                                         integrated lesson plans
Constructivist teaching model                                                                                                    

Mar. 15:   GEMS Moons of Jupiter                                                   Teaching for conceptual change
Discuss Conceptual change instruction

Mar. 22:   AIMS The Sky’s the Limit                                                                                            Ch. 12
FLIGHT Simulation                                                                                                                   

Mar. 29:   GEMS Hide a Butterfly                                                                 NSTA Stand. pp. 143-171
OBIS Adaptation, WILD                                                                                  Misconceptions Research
National Science Education Standards

Apr. 5:     No class – School’s spring break?

Apr. 12:   GEMS Acid rain/global warming                                 Encouraging… st. understanding
Discuss:  conceptual change approach

Apr. 19:   No class: Work on projects                                                                                                         

Apr. 26:   Share projects                                                                           It’s time for a concpt. change

Course evaluation                                                                                                                              Unit

Statement for Students with Disabilities:

It is the responsibility of the student to notify the college of special needs.  A recent diagnosis of the handicap with recommendations for accommodations is required.  The student is encouraged to discuss his/her special needs with each professor.  Reasonable accommodations will be made.  If the student does not feel that he/she has been given appropriate accommodations the Dean of Student Work should be notified as soon as possible.

Instructor’s Bibliography:

Available upon request.

Required Student Readings: (tentative; others will be added)

Guesne, E. (1985).  Children’s ideas of light. In Driver, R., Guesne, E. & Tiberghien, A. (Eds.) Children’s ideas in science.  Philadelphia, PA:  Open University Press.

Chambers, D.L.  (1995).  Improving Instruction by Listening to Children.  Teaching Children       Mathematics, 1, 6, 378-380.

Minstrell, J., & Smith, C. (1983). Alternative conceptions and a strategy for change. Science and Children, 21(3), 31-33.

Scott, P. (1987).  A constructivist view of learning and teaching in science.  Leeds, England:  University of Leeds (Children’s learning in science project).

Lonning, R., DeFranco, T., & Weinland, T. (1998).  Development of theme-based, interdisciplinary, integrated curriculum: A theoretical model. School Science and Mathematics, 98, 312-319.

McComas, W. & Wang, H. (1998).  Blended science: The rewards and challenges of integrating the science disciplines for instruction. School Science and Mathematics, 98, 340-348.

Needham, R. (1987).  Teaching strategies for developing understanding in science.  The    University of Leeds:  Centre for Studies in Science and Mathematics Education.

Watson, B., & Konicek, R. (1990). Teaching for conceptual change: Confronting children’s                       experience. Phi Delta Kappan, 71, 680-685.

National Research Council.  (1996).  National Science Education Standards.  Washington, D.C.:  National Academy Press.

Zahorik, J.A. (1997). Encouraging– and challenging– students’ understandings. Educational                     Leadership, March.

Hausfather, S. J. (1992).  It’s time for a conceptual change.  Science and Children, 30(3), 22-23.

Some web sites on misconceptions:



Example of referencing an Internet source. If no date available, use date you accessed the item. If no author available (look at the bottom of the page for an author!), then use title followed by date.

Beaty, W. J. (1999). Recurring Science Misconceptions in K-6 Textbooks [On-line].  Available:  http://www.eskimo.com/~billb/miscon/miscon4.html