From flashes of lightning in the night sky to early morning fog, natural phenomena are everywhere. Defined as “observable events that occur in the universe and that we can use our science knowledge to explain or predict,” in recent years, phenomena are being incorporated into classrooms and lesson plans to help students explore and better understand the core concepts of the Next Generation Science Standards.
Research has shown that practice is a critical element of mastering a skill or technique. Teaching is no exception to this rule, particularly when it comes to methods of integrating subjects and enhancing children’s in-context and real-world learning experiences. In this way, educators are consistently developing their craft to help students learn in meaningful ways that have relevance and transference.
Instructing for Club Invention®, a National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) afterschool program that has the same dynamic approach as Camp Invention®, is a wonderful way for teachers to gain comfort with the techniques and approach leveraged by phenomena science.
Exploring Phenomena Science at Club Invention
Trash Island: A Garbage Patch Journey™, for example, is a Club Invention activity where children investigate the extreme buildup of trash in the North Pacific Ocean Gyre between California and Hawaii. They must determine what has contributed to the development of “Trash Island,” and develop solutions to keep it from growing. Children are immersed in ecological topics including ocean conservation and pollution control as they collaborate, conduct research, and tap into their creativity to clean up the ocean and secure a brighter, healthier future.
Here, children explore phenomena science concepts including the movement of the tides, and the movement of materials in the ocean. Additionally, children make connections between the litter they may see in their community and how it could travel to bodies of water. The curriculum is rich in details, including coordinates shared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that reflect areas of the Pacific gyre where trash tends to accumulate. Children engage in hands-on activities ranging from designing robotic arm prototypes and ocean cleanup devices. Along the way, they develop their design thinking, creative problem solving and critical thinking skills.
For teachers who introduce the concept of environmentalism by challenging kids to pick up litter, instructing Trash Island: A Garbage Patch Journey would be an ideal afterschool program to help them gain the confidence to facilitate meaningful phenomena-based lessons and experiments with their students.
Phenomena science does not need to serve as a flashy hook. It can involve everyday occurrences that invite us to take a closer look. It also does not need to be a hands-on activity that comes after the presentation of the content — the content can be anchored within the investigation. In addition, while we value questions, the exploration does not necessarily need to stem from an initial question. The observation of the phenomenon can be the starting point from which the questions are generated that will then drive the learning. — Jayme Cellitioci, creativity and innovation strategist at NIHF
Learn More About NIHF’s Education Programs
Trash Island is just one of many Club Invention modules from the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Check out our other programs that also provide job-embedded professional development for facilitating phenomena-based STEM learning experiences.