About the study: This study entitled “Micro-climate studies in a STEM-based curriculum using open-source hardware and software” looks at how to leverage a networked mesh of open-source environmental sensors to help teachers unearth their student’s evolving intuitions and conception about local micro-climate through a STEM-based curriculum. Learn more about the project here. Several schools in Bandung, Indonesia took part in the project.
Having competencies in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) should give a huge benefit to our children. Yet, teaching for such competencies is more often a challenging task for the teacher. The curriculum prescribes what to teach and for how long, which makes it difficult to insert new programs into the curriculum. The weather sensors introduced by the project were very interesting but teachers needed training on how to use them and how to apply them in their lessons.
A series of workshops were conducted to support the teachers before they could use the sensors in the classroom. The workshops covered a technical explanation of the sensors and how they work, identification of possible topics for lessons which could make use of the sensors, and preparation for the lessons.
One of the topics in science identified as appropriate during the workshop was a topic on the relationship between biotic and abiotic factors. Traditionally, students were simply told about examples of biotic and abiotic factors and how they influenced each other.
During the workshop, it was identified that students generally love crickets. They usually sing at night, though some may sing during the day. Trying to make use the available weather sensors, it was decided to run a lesson that challenges students to make a cricket sing during the day. The process of designing, making and testing a cricket cage were designed to give the students rich experiences that will facilitate their STEM competencies. The teaching strategy also facilitated students’ creativity.
As the challenge was presented to students in the classroom, the students came up with different ideas. One group of students made a cage using a black cardboard as they thought dark cardboard should make the cage dark. The second group put ice cube in the cage to make the cage cooler because they thought the temperature at night is cooler. The third group made flashes of light using their mobile phone to simulate night with flashes of thunderstorm. The fourth group played recorded singing cricket to stimulate their cricket to sing. The ideas proposed by the students to make their crickets sings were very creative.
One teacher who implemented the activity in class had this observation:
Yet another teacher observed that students were actively involved in the lessons as they could explore and test their ideas:
There was little doubt that the students enjoyed the lessons immensely. There were also plenty of opportunities for the students to practice their creativity.
On the other hand, the time spent for the “extra” lessons was longer than the typical methods used, as observed by another teacher:
Analysis of students’ responses collected using a set of questionnaire designed to measure students’ perception of their creativity and their relative position compared to their peer suggests that students perceived themselves as fairly creative (3.50/5) but they tended to be less confident as they perceived that they were less creative compared to their peers (3.39/5). This suggests that most students do not have confidence in their own competencies.
Involvement in the project facilitates the teacher professional development not only in terms of learning the appropriate strategy to integrate new content into the existing curriculum but also builds the teacher’s confidence in using new methods in teaching. One teacher said:
Adopting technology in education, especially in contexts different from the original settings, requires modification of the technology, improvement of teacher’s competencies, and adjustment of the curriculum.
Dr. Ari Widodo is a faculty of the Indonesia University of Education (Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia). He is Co-Investigator of this research project.