We have developed a series of hands-on science lessons called HUNBoxes. I send my pre-service teachers into extended day programs in Fort Bend ISD to do a HUNBox as an assignment in my Physical and Earth Science content course. The student must design the lesson for the HUNBox and deliver the lesson to three age groups: early childhood, early elementary, and later elementary. Each lesson takes about 30 minutes and must be hands-on. We provide the materials and supervision.
Nothing really new about this so far, museums typically have similar boxed lessons available to schools. Not all of them come with a docen, however.
The difference with HUNBoxes, however, is three-fold:
1. My students must design their boxes to be flexible across age groups. They must think about levels of explanation and how to deliver content progressively. This is important for pre-service teachers to experience because it makes them focus on content strands (TEKS strands, as the case is here) which develop a concept across grade levels.
2. I instruct my students to start with an interactive experience for the children, use inquiry during the hands-on activity, then follow up with content. This is a struggle for most of them since they are more comfortable lecturing first then proceeding to the activity. The benefits of allowing the children to do an experiment before being "lectured" is that they develop interest and the cognitive "hooks" for understanding that allow them gain metacognitive control of the information that follows. And before I get too many people yammering about how inaffective this is, keep in mind that these are short introductory lessons provided as supplementary to classroom experiences. They could be used to intruduce a concept in the classroom, but they are more valuable as "extra" work that may spur kid's interest in the classroom the next time they hear the "key words" presented during these experiences. This is free-choice learning, and kids I've observed usually take the lessons and run with them, but it's not just fun. The teachers must design inquiry into the lesson and cover real conten goals.
3. My teachers are learning as much as the students they are working with. Many of them have commented about how they would never have thought to present a lesson this way, but having done so they recognize just how much better the students learning the material. They are amazed at how involved the kids get in their activities and at how eager they are to resond to questions when they have a chance to put the answers into action.
We're looking to expand this program in the Houston ISD for their alternative and charter schools program. Let me know what you think we can do to make this program even better.