From rainbows that sometimes appear after rainstorms, to the nests that birds build high up in trees, natural phenomena are all around us. Defined as “observable events that occur in the universe and that we can use our science knowledge to explain or predict,” phenomena are increasingly leveraged by educators to help children find relevant ways to explore, retain and understand the core concepts of Next Generation Science Standards.
While the term phenomena sounds a lot like the word phenomenal, phenomena do not have to be over-the-top, flashy points of connection. Instead, they are simply ways of helping children explore science in ways that connect to their everyday world and lives, often providing an explanation for a particular lesson or activity.
At the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), our education team has long believed in the ability of phenomena to serve as portals for investigating science. Because of this, many of the units within our Invention Project® K-6 curriculum include phenomena that spark students’ curiosity.
Read below for a few examples of how these units embrace phenomena science.
Lights: Bioluminescence and LEDs
In this unit, students discover that a variety of plants and animals are bioluminescent (able to produce and emit light). Following their curiosity about bioluminescent plants and animals, children create their own glowing plants inspired by these organisms. After learning about a few bioluminescent organisms, students are encouraged to further explore how this feature helps them survive.
Applying their creative problem-solving skills, children conduct experiments to safely airdrop animals and help restore balance to natural habitats. During this activity, children also explore beaver dams and try their hand at constructing their own versions of these impressive structures.
Designers and Inventors
Here, students explore the properties of different materials and use their new knowledge to select materials for building their prototypes. By observing differences between the materials available to them, they discover why objects in the world around them are constructed in specific ways.
When we tap into children’s natural curiosity and find occurrences with which they connect, science concepts and principles can be learned more readily in context. This in-context learning can help them apply their insights to future real-world occurrences. The more practice an educator gains in leveraging phenomena, they will likely see a shift toward a more student-led classroom where children’s inquiry, curiosity and wonder lead the way. — Jayme Cellitioci, creativity and innovation strategist at NIHF
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