What makes the sciences at BASIS Independent Schools so special? Our Subject Expert Teachers, who are faculty with degrees in the subjects they teach, go out of their way to make science exciting for kids.
Many BASIS Independent teaching faculty previously taught in the college or university setting, and there is a real drive among them to make science exciting for children at an early age when they are very receptive to it. Head of School for BASIS Independent Manhattan, Jesse Rizzo, is a loyal supporter of bringing this approach to the new Upper West Side campus opening fall 2017.
“The first thing is to keep science relevant and meaningful for kids,” said Ms. Rizzo. “It has to be something that kids can relate to and see and apply in the real world. Often the way projects are developed the child is learning and doesn’t even realize it.”
Ms. Rizzo recently enjoyed attending a “Cardboard Carnival” organized by BASIS Independent Brooklyn’s 3rd and 4th grade engineering classes. Students constructed ring toss games, hockey puck challenges, and golf games, among many others from cardboard boxes, string, tape, tinfoil and other basic materials.
“It was wonderful to see the creativity behind the Cardboard Carnival,” said Ms. Rizzo “To look at it, you would think it was all toys and games. However, at the end of the lesson, the engineering teacher Ms. Hagan asked strong questions about science and design. She explored specific steps of the design process from setting goals to planning, choosing materials, and testing and redesign. What I loved was listening to summary discussions where students took time to reflect on the process.”
Ms. Rizzo pointed to the example of another game taught in engineering that parents can play with kids. The challenge is to ask children to design (and then redesign) a boat made only of aluminum foil and see if it will still float with 20, 50 or even 100 pennies put on top of it. The project delves into a discussion of weight and buoyancy.
The other key element to keeping science exciting is the importance of letting kids discover on their own and follow their lead.
“Kids are being told what to do all day long,” said Ms. Rizzo. “Sit up. Put on your coat. When you give kids choice and give them control, magical things happen. This is similar to what we do with teachers. We give teachers the curriculum to teach, and how they teach it is entirely up to them.”
From small group projects to independent work, the environment is always collegial within BASIS Independent science classes. “It’s not about competition,” commented Ms. Rizzo. “It’s about finding the answers together.”