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Igniting the Love of Science

12 Mar 2008

Casuarina Primary Science class

Pupils excitedly explaining the water cycle process to their teacher, Ms Asnah Ahmad.

Excitement hung in the air as the pupils sat at the edge of their chairs and fixed their gaze intently upon their teacher. The focus of their keen attention: a small matchstick in her hands.

When she finally struck it, the class burst into a chorus of excited noises: “One more, one more!” “Don’t blow it out!” They were eager to find out just how long the flame would last. Similarly, when the teacher demonstrated another source of light using a lighter, the pupils were bubbling with questions. (Of course, in the midst of the excitement, they were also taught aspects of fire safety.)

Such enthusiasm is typical of the Pri 1 and 2 Science lessons at Casuarina Primary School. In fact, parents told the school that their children are so in love with Science lessons, they can’t stop talking about it at home.

In the current MOE primary school curriculum, Science is only taught to pupils in Pri 3 and above. However, in response to the Teach Less, Learn More movement, Casuarina Primary School has introduced Science as a non-core subject for Pri 1 and 2 pupils starting in January this year. They are known as the ENRICH Science lessons, or “Engaging and Reflective Instructions for Children”. ENRICH Science lessons emphasise a hands-on approach to learning, based on the belief that children learn more effectively when they are actively involved and engaged in the discovery process.

Casuarina Primary Science class

ENRICH is designed to pique students' curiosity by incorporating a variety of hands-on activities.

Curriculum innovation

The innovative curriculum was proposed by Ms Asnah Ahmad, the school’s Research Activist. ”We had feedback from teachers that because pupils don’t do Science in Pri 1 and 2 and only as a new subject in Pri 3, they tend to be weak in their process skills,” she says. “So what we do is to try to bridge the gap.”

The school scanned the Pri 3 and 4 Science syllabuses, and tried to tie in its own Pri 1 and 2 Science curriculum with that, but pitched at an introductory level. Ms Asnah adds, “We thought about having a simple assessment but in the end, we all agreed that it should not be tested at all. We want them to have fun, enjoy the lessons and be more engaged and curious.”

The Science lessons take place once every alternate week, and each lesson lasts one and a half hours. Ms Asnah Ahmad could not help laughing as she noted that the pupils, knowing the days they were going to have Science classes, would even remind the teachers about it!

Some of the topics include the five senses, living and non-living things, light and heat, magnetism and gravity. For example, Pri 2 pupils have just learnt about the water cycle and can readily use words such as “precipitation”, “evaporation” and “condensation” to explain the cycle.

To make lessons come alive, learning journeys are being planned. Pri 1 pupils will visit the Quail Farm and the Singapore Zoo, while Pri 2 pupils will go to the Science Centre and the Jurong BirdPark. In addition, a Science Day is also in the pipeline for all the Pri 1 and 2 pupils. There will be stations with different activities and the pupils will take turns to go through them.

Casuarina Primary Science class

Learning comes alive for pupils as lessons are not merely confined to the classrooms.

Only three months into the programme, pupils’ responses have been nothing but positive and encouraging. “I have never learnt Science before and I really like it!” enthuses Arundeep Singh, a Pri 2 pupil. Issac Too, also a Pri 2 pupil, sums it up the best when he raves, “I give it a 10/10!”

Challenges and future plans

The students’ positive responses are the results of the hard work that have gone into developing the ENRICH lessons. Ms Asnah Ahmad had to work very closely with the Principal, Vice Principal and Head of Department for Science during the initial planning stage.

“Science for P1s and P2s does not exist in the formal curriculum, so we had to take the time from somewhere. After some discussion and brainstorming, we decided to integrate the non-examination subjects - which are Social Studies, Health Education and Art and Craft - with Science,” recalls Ms Asnah.

A team of teachers then spent November and December holidays last year, planning the lessons within the spirit of TLLM. This included rationalising the topics to be taught without compromising the rigour of the affected subjects. For example Project Work was planned, which would integrate Health Education and Art, or Social Studies and Art.

The school hopes to fully integrate the four subjects - Science, Social Studies, Health Education and Art and Craft - for the Pri 1 and 2 pupils next year. But before that, Ms Asnah Ahmad will carry out a survey to verify that the programme has been on the right track. If the pupils’ eagerness is anything to go by, the report card will almost certainly be a glowing one!