GIFTED EDUCATION NEWS-PAGE
VOLUME 17, NUMBER 1
Teaching Science in Elementary & Middle School: A Cognitive and Cultural Approach (2007) by Cory A. Buxton and Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.
This comprehensive resource is for use in inquiry based science programs. It is written by two knowledgeable science educators from the University of Miami. An important advantage of this book is that it contains extensive information about the scientific method, history and culture of science, teaching science to diverse students, observing as a scientist and as a science teacher, and options for inservice and advanced science education. Teaching Science contains ninety-nine specific lessons/experiments in major scientific areas which are correlated with National Science Standards - earth and space sciences, biology, chemistry, and physics. They provide the teacher with detailed steps for carrying out experiments and discussions of what the student should learn. Although there are many science books for the elementary and middle school levels, this one is particularly noteworthy because it emphasizes rigorous content and discusses some of the great contributors, e.g., Michael Faraday (chemistry and electricity), Till Kekulé (organic chemistry), and Richard Feynman (physics). A CD is attached to the book containing numerous teacher and student resources such as video clips of experiments. Buxton and Provenzo's approach to science education has been greatly influenced by Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. This is why the hands-on experiments will appeal to gifted students' curiosity and desire to learn about science.
Hands-On Ecology: Real-Life Activities for Kids (2007) by Colleen Kessler and Mike Eustis (Illustrator). Austin, TX: Prufrock Press.
The author is a teacher of the gifted and she has written this book for grades three through five. Teachers can use her book as a first step in educating gifted students about the natural world. The numerous activities provide upper-elementary gifted students with a good introduction to some of the major concepts in environmental studies, e.g., ecosystem, food web, decomposition, carbon cycle, and adaptation. There are also sections on the human impact on the environment, how to help improve the environment, and creating a wildlife garden hospitable to birds, frogs, bees and other insects. One of the most interesting parts is the section on building mini-ecosystems including a pond, woodland, desert, and rain forest.
All of the activities have detailed descriptions concerning the rationale, objectives, activity preparation and procedures, and needed materials. There are few books that teachers of the gifted can use to teach principles of ecology to elementary level gifted students. Kessler's work serves as a helpful resource for this important educational area. It can help to start them on the long path to developing observational and analytical skills.
This fascinating subject provides many interesting opportunities for drawing gifted students' attention to problems concerned with making and recording accurate observations, and reaching valid conclusions based upon these observations. It is not the study of ecology per sé that is the main teaching goal. Instead, learning about the inductive method of reasoning takes precedence, and applying this method to different scientific areas - particularly biology and chemistry - is an important goal for upper elementary and secondary level gifted programs. The sooner public schools start gifted students on the road to understanding scientific issues related to studies of the environment, the better it will be for current and future generations.
Complete Birds of North America (2006) by Jonathan Alderfer (Editor). Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.
The systematic study of bird taxonomies and behavior can help gifted students to understand the great variety of species that exist in the natural world. As a part of their investigations in environmental science, they should first learn about bird characteristics by reading some bird identification books. There are many excellent field guides and books, but this one is particularly useful because it includes detailed illustrations in a larger than usual format. The variety of different species covered in these pages is enormous. Each illustration shows a detailed picture of major features related to beak structure, feather contour and coloration, and body and wing formation. Topics such as status & distribution and migration patterns (shown with maps) provide the reader with enough information to understand each species' unique characteristics. The book also contains information on the impact of environmental factors (e.g, human population growth, deforestation) on bird population numbers which gifted students can use to investigate the rise or decline of different species. Some of the most interesting groups are hummingbirds (over 320 species), eagles, owls, woodpeckers and allies, and chickadees and titmice. By just studying these five bird families, gifted students can learn a great deal about biological uniqueness related to taxonomic features, geographic range, voice-call, and migration patterns.
The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior (2001) by David Allen Sibley (Illustrator), Chris Elphick, John B. Dunning, Jr. and David Allen Sibley (Editors). New York: Knopf.
This guide, sponsored by the National Audubon Society, is a detailed and scholarly discussion of bird characteristics and behavior. It is designed for those readers who want more in-depth information than is found in the typical bird guidebook. Part I contains essays on flight, form and function, evolutionary origins and adaptations, behavior, and habitats and distributions. Part II discusses all the major families of North American birds. For gifted students concerned with studying natural history, ornithology and evolutionary biology, this comprehensive work is their "cup of tea."
Travels in Great Britain: What Gifted Students Can Learn (Part I)
Ross Butchart Vancouver
British Columbia Canada
To explore our respective heritage, my wife (Irish) and I (Scottish) recently undertook extensive travels around Ireland, England, and Scotland. Knowing that we were undertaking this odyssey, Maurice Fisher charged me with a task: To boldly go and seek out assignments/activities that will stimulate the interests and challenge the abilities of gifted students. Hopefully I have met his expectations.
Our first visit of interest was to the graveyard adjacent to St. Nicholas Church in Adare, Ireland. While many of the aged tombstones were impressive, it was more the changes to the site that captured my interest. As the church fell more into ruin over the decades, the graveyard expanded to infiltrate first the courtyard, then the church interior. But rather than erect tombstones, simple plaques bearing particulars about the deceased were attached to fences and walls. One plaque was particularly poignant: HERE LIE THE SEVEN BABIES OF/ DELIA AND PETER SHAW/ ADARE/ 1925 - 1933.
Herein lies the first assignment for gifted students. Explore/research the questions:
· What has been the mortality rate among newborns over the past five centuries?
· What event(s)/circumstances in the early 20th century could cause the death of seven babies over an eight year time span?
· What factors are responsible for the decline in the mortality rate among newborns since the early 20th century?
At just under five feet, nine inches in height I am not a tall person. Yet the vaulted portal between the courtyard and church almost framed me perfectly. Similarly, King Richard I of England (a.k.a. Richard the Lion-hearted) was said to be a giant among men. Yet the armor believed to belong to him makes him only six feet in height. As an extension of the previous activity, gifted students could explore the medical, environmental, and dietary reasons for changes to human anatomy over the decades/centuries; then extrapolate what the human race will look like in the next millennium.
Adjacent to the church on the opposite side from the graveyard lies the 5th fairway of Adare Manor Golf Club. Local rules indicate that a ball hit "within the boundary walls of the Castle and Graveyard" is out of bounds. However, "the well on the 9th fairway" is merely an immovable obstruction. Reading these rules led me to speculate about what leisure activities (if any) the common person pursued at the time the church was built - another possible assignment for gifted students to investigate.
The displays of shackles, branks, and thumbscrews (and scaffold) in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh are evidence that 17th century Europeans were not soft on crime. And if punishments that used these implements were harsh, consider the "test" of innocence required of a woman accused of witchcraft (a topic for research). Gifted students could well explore the relationship(s) between crimes and punishments and how these have evolved and changed over the decades/centuries.
Some two centuries later even children fared little better before the law. The register of inmates at Wicklow Gaol in 1848 reveals that Mary Anne Spenser (age 9) and her sister, Margaret Spenser (age 8), were both convicted of "malicious injury to timber" and sentenced to imprisonment for one fortnight (two weeks). Perhaps they got off lightly as John Weadock (age 13) was sentenced to imprisonment for one month and hard labour for "stealing a quantity of gooseberries." The register of inmates at Kilmainham Prison in Dublin almost twenty years later shows little change in attitude, as in 1865 Ellen Crosbie (age 14) was sentenced to "14 days Kilmainhaim/5 years in reform school" for "stealing flower pots and geraniums." In 1867 George Short (age 14) avoided reform school, but received a sentence of two months imprisonment for "stealing potatoes." Perhaps, however, attitudes did begin to soften near the end of the century as in 1892 James Walker (age 11) was imprisoned for a mere 48 hours for "begging."
The reality of these sentences allows gifted students to explore how youth have been treated by the justice system over the decades/centuries. Guided questions/activities might include:
· When did the justice system begin to treat children differently from adults?
· What social and political factors - particularly those that created attitudinal changes - have influenced how the justice system treats children?
· Investigate the legislation in your state/province to discover how the children named above would be treated today.
· Role-play the trial of one of the children named above.
· Read literature relevant to the position of children in society. Examples might include: Oliver Twist (1838) by Charles Dickens and The Disappearance of Childhood (1982) by Neil Postman.
Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Copyright © by Gifted Education Press, October-November 2007