At least 30 per cent of teachers in elementary schools in France are conducting science experiments in class, says Nicole Ostrowsky, Professor Emeritus, University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, France.
Ms. Ostrowsky, who conducted a programme for around 60 teachers of higher secondary schools from Chennai and Puducherry recently at IIT Madras, said children in France were allowed to conduct experiments on their own. The teachers are to ask questions and children, who are formed into small groups, think and discuss about the experiment they are going to do and answer. The children also report their results, she said.
The programme was organised jointly by Department of Mathematics of IIT Madras and the Lycée Francais of Puducherry' Section of Excellence in Science. The author of a book that has 365 simple activities for each day of the year, she said that each day must start with a question, a short description of what to do and get an answer for that. The experiments can be held in all subjects even in geometry and mathematics, she said.
“In France, we have training sessions for teachers, where examples of activities they can make in their class are taught. They go back to their class, do the activities over a period of one or two months and come back and report as to how the children understood the experiments,” said Ms. Ostrowsky. Though marks on such activities could be a problem, the efforts can be graded. “Good pedagogical practice requires getting all the children involved. This can be achieved with hands on, low cost, scientific activities, such as those described in the agenda. If the class is too large, over 25 students, smaller work groups have to be created.” However, some teachers in India felt that these activities were interfering with “serious” learning. Parents should be made to appreciate that some games can be extremely educative, often more than dry memorisation of facts, she added.