Beginning at a very early age, children demonstrate an innate curiosity about and love for nature. Young children are fascinated by living things, great and small, and enjoy being out-of-doors in natural settings. The “ideal” environment for teaching about living things and the environment is one in which student interest is piqued and remains that way, rich resources are at hand, and both the required time and teacher expertise are available.
A unique opportunity to create just such an “ideal” environment occurred at New Liskeard Public School in 2005 with the opening of a new dedicated Primary/Junior natural science room. The Ontario North East District School Board has invested heavily over the last three years in hands-on learning for its science programs. When reviewing the needs of our school, the board felt that this kind of science lab would enhance our ability (we are the board’s largest elementary school) to offer a top-notch program.
Auspiciously, the architect for the project, Barry Martin, was keenly interested in science education and wanted to create something special. During the design phase in 2004, I was asked for input concerning the speciﬁc layout of the room and the stocking of the new science facility.
The science classroom measures a little over 10m x 10m with an attached solarium measuring 4m x 10m. The classroom has a lab countertop along one wall with four sinks and glass-door cabinets above. There are numerous display cases, two computers, and many aquariums and terrariums. The solarium has high-intensity grow lights, a potting bench, numerous plant stands, and a large basin sink.
A dedicated space
All grade 1 to 6 classes come to me, as the Primary/Junior science teacher, for science. This teaching and room assignment enables our school to concentrate all of our science resources into one place. For our students it means that sci- ence is permanently on display – not something that is “pulled out of a box”. A dedicated science room has the advantage of allowing students (and teachers!) to set up experiments and leave them running if we need extra time. All materials are close at hand; extra sinks make clean-up easier. Living resources enhance many of the life science strands. Students can watch our plants and animals grow day by day, and year by year. In the case of spring butterﬂies and our ﬁre-bellied toads, students have witnessed the completion of entire life cycles – from eggs to adults.