V. Toninato, G. Santovito

University of Padova, Department of Biology (ITALY)
With a view to the active learning, that makes the students protagonists, responsible and aware of the learning process, the present study presents an experimental work designed to demonstrate the usefulness and the validity of the scientific method as the basic element of the teaching of Life Sciences.

The experimental research was realized in two second grade classes of a Primary School in San DonĂ  di Piave (Italy), and its purpose was to test the potency of a teaching approach based on the scientific method, in particular on the observational-comparative method, in the teaching of Life Sciences, focused on the structure of the flower and the inflorescences. For this reason it was decided that within one of two classes was used the experimental method instead of a traditional teaching-learning method based on the oral transmission of contents.

The experimental work was preceded by a survey on didactics, aimed to identify methods and teaching practices adopted by teachers of Natural Sciences of the Primary School, especially for the Biology and in particular for the flower and the inflorescences. From this preliminary investigation it was found that the teachers of the Primary School do not use tools such as the stereoscope for viewing biological material, despite they claim to take an active approach for the teaching of Science using the appropriate scientific instruments. The results also have shown that the majority of teachers do not propose a macroscopic observation and the dissection of a flower as a sample.

In the research class were carried out different theoretical phases always followed by a practical approach, which involved the comparison of species of flowers. So students were able to create concept maps of the new learning, on the solid basis of direct observations and experiments conducted in person. Besides during the action, students were invited to use scientific tools in each lesson as magnifiers, stereoscope, real specimens of flowers. Active teaching and direct observation of flower structures reinforced the concepts theoretically exposed. In this way it was also confirmed the high teaching potential of the integration of macroscopic and microscopic observations.

The observational-comparative method is a key component for the study of the Biology; for this reason all the topics linked to the study of the plants can be addressed through the use of this active methodology. This kind of approach can motivate students, making them active participants in their own learning.

The obtained results showed that, using the scientific method and laboratory tools such as the optical microscope or the magnifiers, conceptualizations planned for fifth grade, can be met with success also in second grade, helping to reach the programmed goals optimally and often excellently, facilitating the achievement of competences such as the use of a correct scientific nomenclature. With this approach, the young students were motivated, stimulated, intrigued, and this potentially provides a meaningful, authentic and transferable Lifelong Learning and the development of a scientific culture together with an early interest in the Sciences.