01 May 2011

Canned fruit juice and concrete concepts

As we all know, canned fruit juice is a popular consumer item today. Just like most other household items, fruit juice cans can be used very effectively in teaching a range of K-8 mathematics and science concepts.

When I was a teacher, I used to get throw away cans collected by my students so that they can use them when learning lessons.

Usually, our textbooks explain concepts such as `Moment (Turning effect) of a force' in a didactic manner (which I hated when learning science at school).  If you go through our textbooks at random, you may find that they do not attempt to present the application component of concepts in children's real life experiences.

When we present questions such as "Look at the can.  We can open it simply by using our finger. Is it possible to open it more easily?" and give enough `wait time' (a crucially important factor, which is often ignored in classroom settings), some children will certainly come up with ideas such as "We can open the can more easily by using a stick".

This can pave way for deeper learning of the mathematical aspect (Moment = Effort X Effort arm) or the mechanical aspect (Moment can be increased by increasing the distance of the point of application of force from the pivot).

Chances of children's ability to come up with such suggestions are greater when we provide them with relevant material resources (for instance, a few sticks in the above mentioned example).

When we couldn't even get fruit juice cans, my students never despaired; they learnt the concept by using doors and doorknobs; they made comparisons when the effort arm changed; they developed graphs by using pencil and paper (decades before "Excel" and "Insert Chart").

I don't think that our Syllabus Boards or Examination Boards stand in our way when it comes to implementing innovative approaches using child friendly materials within K-8. 

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About Me

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Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
I am a K-12 Education Management Professional turned freelance Education writer. I have worked at different levels in K-12 school systems, textbook publishing, elearning and Education NGOs. I have held memberships in The Association for Science Education (UK), American Association of Physics Teachers and The Malaysian Institute of Physics. I hold a 1st class B Sc Degree in Physics followed by B Ed [English and Physical Science] and M A [Childcare and Education] degrees. My published works include 59 articles in teacher development magazines in India and the US and a book entitled `Creative Classrooms and Child Friendly Schools' (listed in Amazon). This book is almost an anecdotal account of my professional experience in six countries (including Cambodia where I worked as Technical Adviser to the Ministry of Education, Youth And Sports). I served as mentor in the Certificate of Teaching Mastery Program offered by Teachers Without Borders.