Gr 4-7 teachers attended a PSP NST/ HOEP (Primary Science Programme, Natural Science and Technology, Hands-on-Environment Project) workshop at Edith Stephens Nature Reserve in Philippi. Our topic was a complex one: understanding the biosphere. Definitions for terms such as biosphere, biodiversity, ecosystem and habitat are easy to find a myriad of definitions for but if you can define something does it also mean you understand it? Teaching these topics in a way that children can understand and connect to the fact that everything is interconnected is something that I have been trying to do all my teaching life.
Creating a narrative that makes sense
Planning and preparing a teachers workshop takes at least twice as long as the time that you have for teaching. PSP staff plan together and share ideas and teaching load. My colleague Rose Thomas and I finalised the following thread to follow:-
- Catching a grasshopper
- Interviewing a grasshopper to see how it survives in its habitat
- What do grasshoppers eat?
- Who eats grasshoppers?
- How do grasshoppers make more grasshoppers?
- Using models to explain the structure of the earth and introduce the terminology
- Drawing the things I need to survive on my little bit of earth
- Thinking about living with grasshoppers and other organisms on my little bit of earth
Catching live animals
Starting the course going outside was a good way to start. Grasshoppers are surprisingly difficult to catch. Maybe they would be slower on a cooler day?
Interview a grasshopper
The live grasshoppers did not like being restricted to the inside of a plastic bottle. It was difficult to conduct the interviews so we resorted to using the animal card of a grasshopper ( whole set of SA animal cards available from PSP). We could at least read the other side of the card to look for some of the answers!
My little piece of Earth
Teachers enjoyed using the new knowledge that they had gained about the biosphere and planning how to look after their little piece of earth. This very thin layer on the outside of our rocky planet earth is incredibly special because the conditions there are suitable for life. Plants grow in the soil absorbing energy from the sun and forming the basis of all food chains. None of this would be possible without the very fragile layer of air, the atmosphere that surrounds the earth.
While teachers were working we had a discussion on the role of the ozone layer and the greenhouse gases in the balance of life. Feeling comfortable to ask questions and clarify concepts is a vital part of these teachers training sessions.
Thanks teachers for working with me to think about how we can each take better care of our little piece of Earth in Cape Town.