Awakening to chemistry through storytelling and practical activities: middle school students interacting with pre-school children
A storytelling approach has been seen as a powerful way to teach science and arouse interest and promote positive attitudes toward learning science in the early years. The purpose of our study was to determine how middle school students – Key Stage 3 (KS3) aged 12–14 in Portuguese schools – experienced learning chemistry through storytelling and how they, in turn, experienced creating stories using a storytelling approach with pre-school children. We aimed to perceive the appropriation of concepts of chemistry by the pre-school children through their drawings, the results collected during the pedagogical intervention and the recordings of the discussions between the pre-school children, the students and the pre-school teachers. The KS3 students were also given a self-assessment questionnaire as a way of assessing the pedagogical dynamics and the drive and motivation to learn chemistry. The study involved 53 children: 16 from KS3 and 37 from pre-school. The intervention took place during the KS3 students’ chemistry classes and during the pre-schoolers’ “storytelling moment”, a weekly 1 hour activity that took place at their kindergarten. We found that the use of a storytelling approach complemented with hands-on activities, as a strategy to teach acid–base content to KS3 students, contributed to their learning. Moreover, it was an important experience, which motivated them to write their stories and to prepare the activities for the pre-schoolers. We also found that the interaction of the older students with the pre-schoolers was profitable for both parts, since this type of activity promotes the acquisition of knowledge. During the “storytelling moment” and the hands-on activities with the pre-schoolers, we were able to witness that the younger students understood the concepts, enjoyed the interaction and felt captivated to learn science, through the questions they posed, the informal conversations and the drawings they made. This study showed us that the use of stories and hands-on activities is an effective strategy in motivating young people to learn chemistry.