3. Conducting research on local food issues
Encouraging students to ask questions and giving them choices about their work are both important when you are teaching them to be creative and to solve problems. By conducting their own research on a topic of their choice, they have ownership of the problem and will develop other skills alongside learning about science. The work they produce could even be of interest to future employers. They have freedom to choose an area of interest and to research it in their own time and in their own way. While this activity will take the students some time to complete, it does not take up much class time and it will give them an opportunity for independent learning. Case study 3 shows what students can do by simply making use of friends and families and Activity 3 also shows what else they could do if they have access to a library or computers. They will practise sorting through a range of information and presenting it in a poster or booklet to their colleagues. You could explain that this is an important way that scientists communicate their research to other scientists at international conferences.
Case study 3: Research using friends and family
Mr Saiti is worried that some of the pupils in his class do not get a good balanced diet. Many have family plots at home for growing food, but these do not always yield a good harvest. He decides to set his class a competition to research good techniques for growing crops on a small scale. They should base their research on talking to people they know and other people in the community. He wants them to use their scientific knowledge to explain the techniques that they hear about. He divides the class into groups of four students. He asks each group to display their findings in a poster and tells them that there will be a prize for the best plan. He puts the judging criteria (Resource 6) on the classroom wall so that the students can see what he will be looking for and plan their work accordingly. Hari’s group are very enthusiastic. Hari goes down to the local market. He picks the stall with the nicest looking vegetables and chats to the owner about how he grows them. Sakina’s aunt works in a local clinic. Sakina asks her about the sorts of illnesses that local people have and as a group they work out what sort of food would help improve local diets and reduce the likelihood of illness due to nutrient deficiencies.
Mr Saiti has already noticed a small plot of land that belongs to the school, but which is not being used. He has asked the headteacher if he could use this plot with his class to develop a small garden to grow vegetables and fruit. The headteacher has agreed to his request.
Activity 3: Organising a research project
Divide your class into groups of up to four students. Explain that you would like them to identify a local food issue to research. Give them time in class to decide on the issue they will research and to plan how they will carry out their research. Encourage them to talk to their family and other friends to identify a local issue or concern. If possible, they could also use a library or the internet. You could spend a short time with the whole class doing a brainstorming activity to generate ideas for suitable topics. Resource 6 has some ideas to start the students thinking. Tell them they have 3 weeks to do the research and prepare a poster, a set of leaflets or a scrap book that will be displayed in the classroom. When they have done this allow them time in the lesson to go round the exhibition and to evaluate each others’ work.