Student Centered Learning—Science Right Outside

Young children are curious about the natural world around them. Teachers can facilitate their explorations of what is immediately available to them just footsteps away from their classrooms.
In August 2012, Stan Chu, a Bank Street College Science for Teachers (n-6) course instructor, led 28 teachers of grades one through five as part of a two-week intensive in-service teacher training program at the Rato Bangala School (RBS) in Kathmandu, Nepal. This was a continuation of a 20-year collaboration between the RBS and the Bank Street College of Education, New York City.
This work with classroom teachers having direct experiences with real materials is in keeping with the belief that teachers need to experience learning in the same ways children raise questions and gather evidence—from first-hand encounters with the physical world. In addition, learners must create ways to represent their understandings in order to form mental models.
For this session, Stan collaborated with Basante Yadav, an experienced Nepali science teacher at the RBS in facilitating an exploration of animals found along the edges of the school’s grassy football field. Teachers were given small trays and hand tools to dig into the soil. The goal was to find any animals, living or dead, that caught the interests of teachers, and that raised questions that could be answered in the context of available time, materials, and previous understandings.
Teachers formed themselves into groups of four, and walked to the school football field a few minutes away. They spent about 15 minutes overturning fallen branches and rocks, and

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