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Pleasure in studying and educating

Studies carried out with students from primary schools from the city public school network in Campinas have shown that, generally speaking, they have great difficulty in relating science with knowledge, unable to see themselves as agents capable of producing scientific knowledge. Science and scientists are entities that are far from them, “simple ordinary students”. Many of their teachers also pose as mere transmitters of information, not as people capable of guiding studies, prompting reflections, and producing knowledge. This prevents them from discovering the pleasure of learning, of teaching and of relating, and of new knowledge.

Demystifying these concepts, showing that learning plays a part in transforming, and awakening scientific vocations among the pupils, and also training researcher-teachers are goals that are being achieved by theScience at School project, financed by FAPESP and coordinated by two professors from Unicamp, Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, the director of the Gleb Wataghin Institute of Physics, and Afira Vianna Ripper, from the Laboratory of Education and Applied Information Technology (Leia), of the School of Education.The idea of the project, says Brito Cruz, is to show that everything is science.

Activities are carried out that make it possible to apply analytical and critical capabilities to understanding problems and to suggest solutions. And These may be in geography, history, Portuguese, or in areas that mix all these. The Campinas region has 36 primary schools, connected with the Municipal Department for Education, and six of them have now been served by the project since its first stage (from September 1996 to December 1999). They were joined by two state schools, in the second stage of the project, which started in 2001. Chosen for their qualifications (experience, courses) the teachers promised not to leave the school during the project, regardless of their area of activity.

In the opinion of Brito Cruz, involving at the same time students and teachers was highly motivating for both of them. The students quickly understood the importance of the activities proposed, and realized that doing scientific research develops the ability for other school activities: observation, analysis and criticism. And the teachers started playing a multiplying role that has already attracted the attention of other schools in the region.According to Afira Vianna Ripper, studies done by the students have shown that scientific knowledge is a tool that helps understand the phenomena of reality.

The focus of one of the projects was violence against women in the Campinas region. Through an analysis of 800 police incidents, under the guidance of the mathematics teacher, the pupils were able to classify the victims (age, social-economic profile), the aggressor (profile and if there was a relationship with the victim) and the aggression itself (the most frequent ones). Theydiscussed the reality, with organized knowledge and statistics. In a seminar that took place in November 2000, over 300 children from the served schools showed the results of the research that had been carried out, using self-assuredly such resources as Power Point and Data Show, in the study of themes like Electricity in Daily Life, Water Resources, Waste, Human Development Index (HDI), Documentary History of Campinas (memory).

They also followed experiments in Unicamp's laboratories, breaking barriers and feeling the university to be something closer and more accessible. “This result is not a miracle. What it takes is using the appropriate methodology and providing proper guidance for the school to quit being a mere transmitter of information, and to become a generator of new knowledge”, says Afira.

In spite of a few difficulties with the schools' infrastructure, the second stage of the project will expand the use of the Internet as an ongoing means of dissemination and teaching. Experiments, methodologies and work done can now be seen in the site http:// “Encouraging practical activities is something lacking at schools. When teachers make children believe that they are receiving wisdom, the path followed is the wrong one”, says Brito Cruz. “It is important to encourage the pupil to do things, to discover and to build up knowledge. And by doing so to create the thinking mass that transforms reality.”