Wolff-Michael Roth, University of Victoria
Bruno Jayme, Giuliano Reis, Leanna Boyer, University of Victoria
Middle school students research a local creek
The Pacific Center has been designed to provide authentic science experiences to students. The main research focus of this project concerns the documentation of the scientific literacy developed by students and teachers alike through long term ethnography studies (videotaping, notes and observation) in the laboratories that was built on previous research. The outcomes of this project will be published in environmental education journals as reference for future studies.
The fundamental idea emerging at the time that literacy (knowledge) has to be understood in terms of practices—the patterned actions people deploy in their private and working lives—rather than as procedural and declarative information stored in their heads that they bring to bear on problematic situations. Thus, it was proposed that students of mathematics, science, or history engage in activities that bear considerable family resemblance with the activities in which scientists, mathematicians, or historians normally are engaged in. Here, knowledge is equivalent to competent participation in these activities, and learning is recognizable as changing (increasing) competence. Authentic School Science, one of the very first studies in middle and high schools, showed that there was tremendous potential in having students learn science by designing and conducting their own research programs. Despite the tremendous success of the Authentic School Science program, there emerged doubts in the science education community whether the things scientists do in their laboratories provide the appropriate image for the education of all students.
In particular, the competitiveness within the sciences is said to reproduce unequal levels of access for women, the poor, and those of culturally different origins (African American, First Nations). In recent years, the notion of authentic with respect to science literacy has therefore been rethought. Participation in any form of activity where science is also brought to bear on decision making, as long as this activity is the real thing rather than a mock-up, appears to be a better image for providing meaningful science experiences to the student population at large. Thus, some of the suggested activities include participation in environmentalism, salmon enhancement, ethnobotany for economic survival of aboriginal communities, and active citizenry.