TEACHING SCIENCE IN PRIMARY EDUCATION IN AN ENGINEERING LABORATORY

M.E. Ferreira1, A.C. Porteiro2, R. Pitarma3

1Unit for Inland Development (UDI) - Polytechnic Institute of Guarda (IPG) (PORTUGAL)
2Polytechnic Institute of Guarda (IPG) (PORTUGAL)
31. Unit for Inland Development (UDI) - Polytechnic Institute of Guarda;CISE - Electromechatronic Systems Research Centre, University of Beira Interior (PORTUGAL)
This study was developed as part of a professional formation, of the master's degree in pre-school and primary school education, and is characterized by the intervention of the teacher in educational settings. Given the characteristics of today's society, markedly influenced by the evolution of science and technology, the importance of science education is indisputable as a promoter of scientific literacy. In this context, and based on the Environmental Studies curricular area of primary education in Portugal, this article focuses on the problem of teaching science, in particular on the issue of adequately simplifying materials and procedures of a higher education institution engineering laboratory, so that this constitutes a learning science context for children in the early years of schooling.

This is a formal educational context different from the usual classroom. In this study, pupils were taught by the teacher who was responsible for the laboratory. It was a mixed class (1st and 3rd year) of children (n = 12), aged 5 to 8 years. During the 4 weeks prior to the laboratory study visit, these children had an afternoon per week dedicated to the learning of concepts related to the properties of air, where experimental activities were used as a teaching resource. In the 5th week, during one morning, children visited their town’s engineering laboratory, in order to acquire knowledge and skills about the properties of air.

The teaching model used in this educational intervention was based on a discovery context - "knowledge in action". Children were involved in its accomplishment and recorded their observations and interpretations in their study trip script. Learning assessment was carried out through observation and recording. In the following class, time was given for all children to write a free text on their experience - to have a science lesson in an engineering laboratory - thus providing a moment of critical analysis and discussion of the developed activities. These children were also challenged to answer a set of closed questions about the properties of air.

The study results suggest that this engineering laboratory and the didactic script prepared constituted motivational teaching resources leading to significant learning. This was related to physics concepts -air properties- and it developed skills and attitudes related to science. This connection of the town’s primary school to its higher education school provided a unique opportunity for curricular learning in the areas of science and technology.