Implementation funds are purchasing hands-on science kits for each school to support science inquiry for intermediate level students. The initiative, funded by the province, is targeted to provide resources that support the implementation of the redesigned curriculum. While the bulk of the funds have been directed towards technology for learning and other school-based resources, some resources have been earmarked to support this hands-on science project for earlier grades.

Ordering began in early March with our Science support teacher, Camilla Anderson, working with three interested teachers that expressed interest in selecting and implementing the kits. The FOSS Kit design, by the Lawrence Livermore Hall of Science at UC-Berkeley, is explicitly inquiry-based, hands-on, and aligned with elementary science themes. Our kits focused on the human body, solutions and mixtures, and motion.

The Fulford pilot with Jim Lightfoot began early in May

Camilla Anderson writes, “This week I will conduct the last 2 labs with Jim Lightfoot to wrap up our human body unit. Their enthusiasm to complete the investigations is really magical to see! These labs really spark a lot of conversations, questions, and make students wonder. During the next two mornings …we are going to compare bones of humans, rodents, and chickens and relate structure to function. On Thursday we will be building a model of a leg and foot that students will have to make from wood dowels, rubber tubes, rubber bands, and paper clips. The leg will bend, and they have to make the foot point up and down. They learn all about bones, muscles, tendons, and joints. It should be super fun!”

In June, Andrew McPhee at Fernwood implemented the Solutions and Mixtures kit

We needed to order safety goggles to supplement this kit. “Students are very excited to get hands on with some ‘real science.’ Even though a lot of the procedures have been very simple so far, it is a great way for them to practice using equipment properly, developing safety protocols, and to learn to clean up the equipment when they are done. The kit provides a great variety of ways to look at a topic in terms of supplied readings, hands on labs, discussion topics, and even home connection activities.

In terms of teacher friendliness, it is awesome! It is nice to have such a well laid out plan that is easy to follow and really provides everything you need for the newcomer to science. As with anything, the subsequent times I do this will bring about much more dynamic situations, as I will know what to expect as they progress through the investigations.

As far as promoting inquiry-based learning there are some aspects of it that get them to think outside the box. They recently had to put all their learning together to design a method for separating a dry mixture. It then allowed room for them to test out their hypothesis and summarize the results. This part was definitely inquiry based, but some of the labs are also very prescribed as is typical with science lab situations.

The kits are definitely hands-on! The kids are so excited to get to learn about all the different lab equipment and expand their knowledge. I have had to do a lot of scrounging to find scales, and hand lenses etc which are all needed for the labs but not included in the kits. However, so far we are making it work. That would definitely be a struggle with passing the kits around as all the stuff that needs to go with them. In regards to additional equipment, the FOSS Measurement kit would would be a great accompaniment to the solutions and mixtures kit as it contains all the balances and hand lenses etc. However, we were able to scrounge resources from all over the school to make up enough sets for it to work.

I would definitely say these are a valuable addition as it begins building easy to manage supplies and labs in our district which hasn’t been done for many years. What makes these most valuable is the wealth of information that supports them with lesson plans, stories for students to read, home connections and more.”

Inquiry about the FOSS Science Kits with Camilla Anderson

How well do the activities connect with our students?

They connect 100% with our students. I have found them to be age appropriate. The students have all been able to participate and contribute to the group activities, and the class discussions.

How teacher friendly are the kits?

The binder that comes with the kit, is very teacher friendly. It is well organized into sections (materials/labs/photocopy masters/extension activities/assessment). The website has many more teacher resources, even videos showing how to set up and run every investigation. It explains background information for teachers and for students.

Do the activities and kits effectively promote inquiring minds?

The teacher binder provides all the questions that teachers might ask to guide and engage students in the inquiry process. Problems are presented, and students must develop a way to solve the problem. For example, today students had to reach the saturation point for salt in water. The challenge was for them to develop a way to find out how many grams of salt can dissolve in 50 mL of water. First they knew to keep adding salt in small increments into the 50 mL of water until no more would dissolve. Then they decided to filter out the solution to remove the undissolved salt. They then took 50 mL of water and found its mass, compared that to the mass of 50 mL saturated solution they filtered, and subtracted the two to determine the mass (about 15 g) that dissolves in 50 mL of water). I was really impressed with how well the students worked together to conduct this investigation.

Do these kits really support hands-on activity?

100% they are building, mixing, touching, counting, moving… every activity is different.

What other supplements would be helpful?

I did not realize that the mixtures and solutions kit that Andrew ordered required the measuring kit to be ordered separately. I thought it was included. Luckily, Andrew had some equipment. I think of the goggles for the chemistry sections. I also wonder about iPad mounts that provide the document camera effect when used with a projector for the purpose of teacher / student demos of process/thinking to a class.

Are these kits a valuable addition to our repertoire, even if this is a single time purchase for each school?

YES! I can’t believe the feedback I have heard from students. I feel bad every time I leave, because their appreciation for the labs these kits provide really highlights how we can do more hands-on science. It is unbelievable how many thank-you’s I get from students at the end of each lab. Students want to help me carry supplies to my car, or come and see what else is in the box. The students have asked many questions and become curious about many science topics.

These kits are very well developed. They teach students in a fun engaging way, provide the teacher with very good labs that require very little prep time, and manage to allow the exploration of difficult concepts in simple exciting ways.

Story: Doug Livingston with Cameilla Anderson
Photo: Camilla Anderson