Activities play a key role in environmental studies. Engaging in various activities will enhance a learner’s knowledge and skills, which are required to negotiate effectively with different real-life situations. In order to extend understanding of a planned learning programme, a teacher can use various types of activities, such as research activities, creative activities, construction and processing activities, etc. Teachers can add these activities to their teaching curriculum as they provide clarity and additional meaning to a concept. They emphasise the importance of imagining and creating objects to students with an aim to enhance their creative thinking ability along with their practical learning skill. The term ‘activities’ also includes field trips and excursions.
Some Important Types of Activities in EVS
Some important activities suitable as well as useful in an EVS class are as follows:
? Trip to fairs and exhibitions
? Visit to museums
? Collection of pictures and models
Field Trips or Excursions
Field trips provide a student with an opportunity to study a class subject out of school premises in the real environment. A field trip is a planned visit to a place outside school. Field trips are of a shorter duration, such as a visit to zoo, botanical garden, museum, etc. Students usually go for field trips in the morning and return in the evening. On the other hand, excursions are longer in duration. In an excursion, students may need to stay out for a number of days, such as visits to places out of town. In field trips, the area of attention is fixed. Whereas in excursions, the interest is varied and vast. Thus we can say that, at the primary stage, field trips are more useful for children.
Objectives of Field Trips or Excursions
The following are the main objectives of a school field trip or excursion:
?? To make students aware of their surroundings
?? To develop self-confidence in them
?? To instill the spirit of group adjustment and cooperation as a group or team
?? To provide opportunity of development through discovery
?? To develop logical thinking in students Let us discuss the advantages of field trips and excursions in the following section.
Advantages of Field Trips and Excursions
The advantages of field trips and excursions are discussed as follows:
?? Build interest: Outdoor activities, such as visits and excursions, build up interest in the study of the target subject as they provide students with the opportunity to observe study-related objects or events in detail and in a natural setup.
?? Generate spirit of cooperation: When students go out in a group with a common goal under the guidance of their teacher, they learn cooperative behaviour by working together and helping each other. Moreover, a sense of fraternity and responsibility towards each other is developed. In other words, activities tend to provide students with the opportunity to work and learn together as a team. The capability of students increases through sustained participation in a group, and they become more aware of the values of group effort.
?? Help with clarity of subject matter: Field trips and excursions help when operations of complicated or huge machines, marine objects and events concerning natural and physical surroundings, etc. cannot be studied completely just by reading or listening to descriptions in the classroom. Study of such things and events will be effective and purposeful when they are observed in the actual situation.
?? Establish contact with the outer world: With the help of field trips and excursions, students get an opportunity to come out of the limited boundaries of their classroom. They gain new, real-world experiences that widen their mental horizons.
?? Provide entertainment: Field trips and excursions help in breaking the boredom and monotony of the classroom. The change of environment thus provided may prove quite useful in refreshing students and generating a new zeal and enthusiasm in them for further learning of the subject.
Organisation of a Field Trip or an Excursion in EVS
An EVS teacher should take the following steps for organising a field trip or an excursion for students:
1. Planning and choice of place: Planning things in a proper manner is the very first challenge that comes before a teacher. The success of an educational trip or excursion depends upon the wise decision making of the teacher in terms of place selection and good planning. On the other hand, relevance to the subject, feasibility in terms of expenses, season, time available, conveyance, etc. are also some factors that require deliberation by the teacher before planning a field trip or an excursion.
2. Preparation: When preparing a field trip or an excursion, a teacher is advised to do the following things:
? Obtain due permission of the authorities of the school and the visiting site and of the students’ parents.
? Arrange for a safe and comfortable mode of transportation.
? Share the aims and purpose of the trip with the students in clear manner.
? Arrange food, water, emergency kit and other useful equipments.
? Develop proper guidelines or instructions of behaviour for the students when on the site.
3. Precautions: For the success of a school field trip or excursion, the teacher responsible should remain alert and active throughout the time. Other important precautions for him/her are as follows:
? Keep students under control and in discipline. All precautions regarding the safety and security of students must be heeded.
? The planned visit schedule should not be disturbed or unnecessarily changed.
? All students should be made to listen carefully to the accompanying guide and asked to collect and note down useful information related to the educational purpose of the trip or excursion.
? Some kind of healthy entertainment should also be integrated as group activities to remove elements of boredom and monotony.
4. Recording: Responsibility of a teacher accompanying the team does not end with the return of the team. A follow-up job in terms of the following points needs to be delivered by the teacher:
? Experience gained by each and every student and difficulties faced during the visit need to be discussed in group.
? Queries or doubts of students from their educational experience at the trip or excursion need to be addressed.
? The teacher should seek and utilise this experience of the students and correlate it at the time of formal classroom teaching.
An experiment refers to performing an orderly procedure, especially in a laboratory, in order to determine something or providing an insight into a cause and effect by clearly revealing the outcome of manipulation of a particular factor. In experimentation/practical work, either students observe or manipulate real objects or they witness it being demonstrated by their teacher. Practical works are concerned with actually doing rather than receiving theory. Science Community Representing Education (SCORE, 2009-A) has provided a list of activities that can be included in good practical work for students. These are as follows:
? Core activities: Investigations, laboratory techniques and field work. These activities shape a student’s understanding of scientific concepts and develop practical skills.
? Directly related activities: These include teacher’s demonstrations, designing and planning investigations, experiencing scientific phenomena, analysing results and data analysis. They provide valuable first-hand experience to students.
Importance of Practical Work at Primary Level
Children are very curious, good observers and active by nature. However, in school, they are passive because they are mainly motivated by marks. Practical work helps students to make a link between two domains of knowledge i.e. the domain of real
objects and observable things and the domain of ideas. Practical work leads to an interactive education that in turn deepens the impact and helps to retain information for a longer time. On the contrary, theoretical knowledge depends upon understanding the content part. If students get enough hands-on experience, they can learn better as they can relate their practical experience to their theoretical learning.
Examples of experiments/practical work: According to the primary level of EVS education, a practical work can involve a teacher asking his/her students to choose any five plants from their respective surroundings. From the chosen plants, the students can be asked to identify the nature of the stem of each plant, i.e. it is hard or soft, erect or not erect, etc. Further, from the selected plants, the teacher can ask the students to determine the colour and shape of the flowers and leaves of each plant.
The students can also be asked to determine whether the chosen plants bear any fruits or seeds. The following layout can be used for the students to note their findings:
|S. No|| Local |
| Type of Stem: |
| Flowers: |
| Leaves: |
| Fruit: |
| Seeds: |
|1|| Mango |
|Hard and erect||White colour|| Green |
Engaging a child in exploratory and hands-on activities to achieve basic cognitive and psychomotor skills and nurturing the child’s curiosity about the world are some of the primary objectives of teaching EVS at primary stage. Experimentation/practical work plays a very important role in the achievement of these objectives in an excellent way.
They enhance the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains of student learning.
Discussion is considered to be a democratic teaching strategy that is used by a teacher during class teaching. In discussions, students are more active. In a discussion, a teacher’s role is to supervise students and also provide proper guidelines for them regarding the topic of discussion. Discussion is a child-centered approach of teaching. Some important definitions of discussion are as follows:
According to Yoakman and Simpson, discussion is a special form of conversation. It is an exchange of ideas of more reasoned and detailed kind than that found in ordinary conversation.
According to James M. Lee, discussion is an educational group activity in which the teacher and the students talk over some problem or topic.
Types of Discussion
There are two main types of discussion:
Discussion by teachers: This type of discussion is more an autocratic style of discussion because the teacher presents his/her views on the topic and usually leads the discussion. Due to the interference of the teacher in this manner, a discussion assumes an autocratic style because the concept, knowledge and views of the teacher are more relevant here and are the final facts too.
Discussion by students: This type of discussion is more permissive or democratic in style. In this style of discussion, a group of students enters into a discussion among themselves. The teacher is present only to make a note of the views and errors of the students, but during the discussion, he/she does not interfere or disturb the students for minor errors or points. After the completion of the discussion, the teacher provides proper guidelines to the students. Thus, it is a democratic type of discussion.
Structure of Discussion
Discussion is organised either formally or informally. For a formal group discussion, there is a fixed time and topic. Seats are arranged such that each student is able to face the other during the discussion. The participating students have to select a student to act as a leader of the group. The role of the teacher is to prepare a plan for the discussion. The teacher steps in the discussion only when it seems to be drifting from the aim or getting difficult. In this type of discussion, due weightage is given to the answers and questions of students. On the contrary, an informal group discussion is spontaneous and unorganised, and the role of the teacher is that of a judge who takes the final call.
Principles of Discussion
Following are the primary principles of discussion during class teaching:
?? Principle of activeness
?? Principle of spontaneity
?? Principle of teamwork
?? Principle of equality
Advantages of Discussion
These are the main advantages of discussion during class teaching:
?? Provides a scope of criticism for incorrect approaches, ideas and concepts
?? Facilitates attainment of cognitive and affective objectives of teaching
?? Develops the habit of teamwork in students
?? Helps in developing the creative ability as well as thinking and problem solving skills in students
?? Instills the spirit of cooperation among students
Limitations of Discussion
These are some major limitations of discussion during class teaching:
?? It may deviate from the main topic or purpose.
?? It involves more criticism than relevant discussion.
?? Usually, the group members follow the strategy of being more critical than the others to establish their views as the best.
?? Sometimes, all students do not participate in discussion, even when they are part of the group.
Suggestions for Effective Discussion
The discussion process can be divided into three steps, i.e. preparation, discussion and evaluation. To prepare for a discussion, the following suggestions can be useful:
?? An opportunity should be provided to all the students participating.
?? Irrelevant criticism should not be encouraged.
?? Students should be encouraged and motivated to participate in discussion.
?? A topic for discussion should be selected on the basis of relevance to the class subject.
?? A constructive, critical, objective, purposeful and receptive reading can help in strengthening the learning essentials of discussion.
?? All available materials can be used to prepare an outline, summary or written report of discussion.
? The way a participant presents information is important in discussion as it adds value and can strengthen a particular point.