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Learning Science, Learning Values

13 Jun 2012

Telok Kurau Primary School values education through Science

A jam-making session in Science class can also be an opportunity to learn about respect, diligence and patience.

Making strawberry jam from scratch might sound like something out of a Home Economics lesson, but for Primary 5 pupils at Telok Kurau Primary School, this was a Science lesson where they learned not only about heat but also values such as resilience and mutual respect for their group members. As pupils set about preparing the strawberries, there was no jostling or criticism if the fruits were not cut to exact shape or size, and no complaints about having to pay close attention to their strawberry mixture. "We needed to tolerate the heat, and be diligent and patient in stirring the mixture to ensure that the jam would turn out well," says Pri 5 pupil Chew Qi Hern.

Lessons like this are part of how values education is informally infused into the curriculum for academic subjects at Telok Kurau Primary School. The head of department for Character and Citizenship Education, Mdm Rezina Khan, explains that the school believes that "values are both taught and caught." Since 2005, the school has anchored all its initiatives on its six core values of respect, responsibility, resilience, integrity, care and harmony.

In particular, the teaching of Science has incorporated learning journeys and inquiry-based learning (IBL) as the "fundamental approaches" to teach values. The former are aimed at exposing lower primary pupils, who do not study Science, to "essential and simple facts of science as an introduction," Mdm Rezina says. IBL Is more explicitly tailored for upper primary pupils, to teach ethics and attitudes related to values.

Telok Kurau Primary School values education through Science

Group discussion encourages the pupils to learn from each other.

For example, IBL typically involves group work, and pupils thus learn, in Mdm Rezina's words, to "work in harmony via cooperative learning strategies". During group discussions, they practise respect for others even when other opinions differ from theirs.

The bigger picture

This approach to Science lessons enables pupils to better understand how their values and behaviour have an impact on their surroundings. When they learn about the ecosystem or life cycle of a plant, for example, they learn not only about flora and fauna, but also the negative effects of pollution and the importance of conservation. Pri 5 pupil Mohammad Idris reflects, "We learn about responsibility and what we can do to take care of the environment, such as not wasting water or contaminating water sources."

Such lessons provide the impetus for pupils to develop "ethics and attitude such as care and concern, curiosity and resilience," explains Mdm Rezina. Apart from heightening their level of awareness, she says, the use of social media platforms also helps pupils to "apply the values that have been taught in the formal values education lessons to Science concepts."

Telok Kurau Primary School values education through Science

Besides learning facts about the environment, pupils also learn about what they can do to preserve the environments.

Moreover, projects, competitions and blogs about the environment and science are used to make values teaching relevant and meaningful in Science. For example, a group of Green Monitors (the school's environment champions), participated in the National Environment Agency's Corporate and School Partnership programme last year. The activity reinforced the value of care for the environment, and highlighted how every individual has a role to play as a responsible citizen to raise environmental awareness. This year, in conjunction with Earth Hour, the school engaged the pupils through a blog about Science, posting a weekly entry containing questions about caring for the earth and inviting pupils to talk about how they can contribute, such as in electricity and water conservation.

Internalising what they learn

The school has received positive feedback about the effectiveness of teaching values via the Science curriculum and other platforms. During a paper-making activity in conjunction with Total Defence Week, for instance, pupils were able to link it to caring for the environment, says Mdm Rezina, citing an example of useful feedback.

Telok Kurau Primary School values education through Science

Pupils learn to work in harmony through cooperative learning strategies during Science IBL lessons.

In addition to the formal curriculum, the school promotes values through assembly programmes, "share a value" storytelling sessions, the Catch Them Doing Right initiative, "reflective journalling" during CCAs, leadership camps and sports. Parents are also encouraged to reinforce the importance of teaching values to their children.

That the pupils realise the importance and relevance of values is clear. "Our generation is exposed to the social media and the Internet, and these may sometimes have a bad influence on us," says Qi Hern. "Values are therefore very important to guide us."