Hands-on experience helps students to grasp concepts better

New York, Nov 13 (IANS) Interacting school students with live creatures like fish in classroom can help them to improve attitude towards science, finds a study.

The results published by the journal PLOS Biology, suggested that students are particularly able to grasp concepts — even complex ones — when they’re delivered through an authentic, hands-on experience.

The researchers took nearly 20,000 students through the task of raising zebrafish from embryos over the course of a week, and found that kids at all grade levels showed significant learning gains.

“During the course, students collect zebrafish embryos and watch them develop from single cells to swimming larvae complete with beating hearts and distinct pigmentation. Elementary students learn about human and fish anatomy, habitats, cells, and DNA,” said Steven A. Farber, Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins University.

Middle school students identify observable traits of zebrafish offspring, and, in high school, students learn how scientists determine the genetic makeup of parents by studying their offspring.

The authors analysed the performance of the students before and after the programme, and asked knowledge-based questions and questions to assess their attitude about science.

The researchers found that elementary school students improved their knowledge of scientific concepts by 48 per cent, while scores of those from middle school and high school rose by 27 per cent.

The researchers said that the chance to work with live animals — fish that swim, mate and grow right before their eyes — focuses children’s attention in a way a book lesson cannot.