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Effects of Enthnoscience-Based Teaching

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An Action Research Study on the Effects of Ethnoscience-Based Teaching on Students’ Views of Scientific Concepts and Interest in Science

Josephine Tufa-Tufele

Fall 2018



I teach eighth grade Reading/English Language Arts and Science (Life Science, Earth/Space, and Physical Science) at an Elementary School on the Western side of an island located in the South Pacific. I am part of a four-teacher team, including one Math, one Social Studies, and one Samoan Language Arts teacher. We teach 81 students who make up the whole 8th grade. Although I teach four science classes a day, I will be targeting my homeroom class for my research. This class is made up of twenty-four average students who are all Samoan except for one student whose ethnicity is Indian/Fijian.

The effect of ethnoscience on students’ views of scientific concepts and interest in Science will be investigated. In this study, I will look into how the integration of ethnoscience into my eighth-grade Science curriculum would impact my students’ interest for learning Science. Enthusiasm for learning Science can be defined as the students’ eagerness to participate in science activities in the classroom, as well as away from classroom. My motivation for focusing on ethnoscience is based on an interest sparked by Mrs Pauline Chinn’s EDCS 640P Place-Based Science Education class I took this past summer. Learning about Ethnoscience has made a huge impact in the direction I would like to take regarding teaching Science. I am in the process of learning innovative and engaging practices for incorporating ethnoscience principles in the lessons I plan to implement in the classroom this year. Currently, I am working on a STEM place-based project with a fellow STEM M.Ed. program candidate, a colleague and close friend of mine. We are looking into the Futiga Landfill- how it was engineered and the effects of trash decomposition and leachate on vegetation, water systems, and residents who live nearby. We will also see how phytoremediation and growing of Vetiver grass in the area can help alleviate the problem of the soil absorbing toxins from the landfill. We hope to establish a partnership with ASPA and USDA so that we receive the necessary support to move forward with this project. I hope that after this action research study, the number of students interested in Science will increase- that integrating Ethnoscience into the 8th grade Science curriculum at our school will spark and spike student interest in Science as much as Dr. Chinn’s class sparked mine.

Learning is definitely a complicated process. During my thirteen years of teaching I have used many strategies to enhance student learning and to teach new concepts. I am still not convinced that I completely understand how students learn. Yet, I do believe students learn through experiences. They build on past experiences and previous knowledge to process new concepts. In their early experiences of the world around them, children develop ideas which helps them make sense of the things that happen around them. They bring these informal ideas into the classroom, and the aim of science education is to give more explanatory power so that their ideas can become useful concepts (National Curriculum Council, 1989). During middle grades students should have meaningful experiences that inspire, build connections, and help them see themselves in pursuing interest in science-related fields or STEM (AS STEM Logic Model and Key Measures, 2014). Making them realize that they cannot learn and appreciate Science only through textbooks and videos, but by going outside to look at what is in their backyard and utilizing our local resources- such as the streams, landfill, native plants or birds, air/land/ocean pollution, rocks, local water quality, etc. They could also talk to their elders and have them share stories and past experiences about nature and daily living- their food systems, plantation, and resourceful trees like ulu, coconut, and pandanus trees. Making connections building foundations, and applying culture/customs and everyday living experiences to science is what Ethnoscience is all about. Perhaps this strategy and its integration into the regular science curriculum will have students improve their understanding of scientific concepts and most importantly spark more interest in Science! Through this study, I hope to find that ethnoscience would be the “window” that my students need to acquire new knowledge, develop new concepts, and express strong understanding. Through the integration of ethnoscience, I hope to tap the enthusiasm of my students towards learning science and make them active participants



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