What is the formula for making children more enthusiastic about the natural sciences?
At the Phorms Campus Hamburg, the children are in an elated mood. Year 5 children crowd together in the playground, hastily packing their sandwiches into their bags. They are joined by visitors, Year 4 and Year 5 from the Phorms Gymnasium Berlin Süd. The children are headed for one of the side canals along the river Elbe, where the children and their teachers are going to explore the water under the guidance of outdoor adventure instructor Boris Braun, combining physical education and science. A canoe trip has been arranged, so Boris Braun has come perfectly prepared for the afternoon, with wildlife guidebooks, fly nets and some spare clothes in case anyone goes for an unplanned dip.
In 2011, he joined Phorms for the interdisciplinary project “Sprache und Naturwissenschaft - gemeinsam sind wir stark” (“Language and science – stronger together”), which he managed and led together with teacher Daniel Roque Mendes. The project was sponsored by a foundation in Hamburg. The predominant aim of the project was to awaken children’s interest in scientific questions. Since then, Boris Braun has regularly been joining the students for practical studies. “I want the students to become enthusiastic. It’s important to make the children curious, particularly in primary school, so that they become motivated to study a theme by themselves and stick to it,” he says. And he succeeds in doing so, as the children tell me while we walk along the banks of the Elbe, clearly impressed by their lessons with Boris Braun and the project “Language and science – stronger together”. Learning how to use GPS for geocaching or how to simulate earthquakes in the classroom – these are the kind of lessons that Boris Braun has been teaching the children. In the 2013/14 school year, he’ll be teaching science at the secondary school. Opinions are divided as to whether there is too much science at school or too little, but the students all agree about one thing: projects with Boris Braun are a lot of fun. 11-year-old Antonia from Hamburg praises his teaching methods: “Mr Braun doesn’t talk that much. He just shows us a lot, goes on great excursions with us and I like that – he’s really involved in the topic and seems to live it.”
The children also learn how to apply the natural sciences to life by taking part in various science competitions. In 2013, two girls in Year 3 won third place in the respected science competition Natex. In addition to projects that are related to the local area around the school, there are also increasing numbers of projects with a broader scope. One of the newer projects is “Phorms meets Phorms” where classes visit each other at their respective locations. The two classes from Berlin Süd and their teacher Valérie Hardt enjoyed their visit in Hamburg. They have invited the children from Hamburg to visit Berlin in the coming school year. It has not yet been decided whether the natural sciences will be the focus when the children from Hamburg visit Berlin. For the time being the children were all busy enjoying their current excursion. During the canoe ride, the children informed me about native plants and animals along the Elbe and told me their plans for the future. Some of them have already demonstrated that their teachers’ enthusiasm for the natural sciences has had an impact. One of the boys wants to be a biologist, while one of the girls has decided to become an ornithologist.