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In the 21st Century we need citizens who can innovate and creatively address impending social, economic and environmental challenges. Schools play a crucial role in developing these qualities/ strengths in students, who can then move into careers designing and delivering sustainable solutions for society.
Introduction to ALP
In 2014, Ang Mo Kio Secondary School was chosen to embark on the Applied Learning Programme (ALP). We decided to focus on ‘environmental sustainability’ to create awareness about waste management issues in our pupils. Guided by the ‘Integrated Waste Management Hierarchy’, our ALP was designed to equip our pupils with the necessary knowledge and skills on the growing concerns about the environment.
To create an authentic learning experience and to further enhance students’ understanding on waste management, a vermicomposting system (see Figure 2) was set up in the school at the end of 2014. This was done in collaboration with our strategic industrial partners, Siloso Beach Resort and our consultant Dr Koh Niak Wu from Cosmiqo International Pte Ltd.
Professional Discourse and co – teaching model
Each class was taught by 2 ALP teachers and the STEM educator from the Science Centre. By establishing a smaller teacher pupil ratio, teachers were able to better facilitate the learning of the groups under their charge. In our attempt to build teacher capacity, we meet once a week in the afternoon, to hold our preview lesson for the following week. This preview session was used as a platform to clarify the doubts that teachers had about the lesson delivery. This session was also used to suggest alternative pedagogical approaches that will enhance the level of engagement of our pupils.
Being cognisant that SDL and CoL are skills and learning processes integral to achieving the 21st century competencies in our students, we have crafted lessons with activities that need skills for group-based knowledge creation and problem-solving. In addition, SDL and CoL were incorporated meaningfully into some of the lessons, to strengthen the development of the concepts, skills and dispositions in the ALP.
Sec 1 Curriculum
The objective of the Sec 1 ALP curriculum is to give a broad base exposure to the environmental sustainability issues. This curriculum was implemented in semester 2, term 3 weeks 1 to 10. Pupils from the Sec 1 Express, Normal Academic and Normal Technical streams attended 2 periods (1 hour) of ALP lesson every week. ALP lessons were factored into the Sec 1 timetabled lessons.
The 10 week lesson plan was written by the curriculum specialist from the Science Centre.
During the Sec 1 ALP, students have learnt about the design and construction of a soda bottle bioreactor in order to carry out indoor composting experiments. Students have also investigated the effect of 5 variables needed for composting (moisture, air, green organic waste, brown organic waste and microorganisms). Through observations, students were able to identify the colour, odour, texture and temperature changes over a course of 5 weeks.
In addition, further analysis was done by plotting a graph of temperature changes against time. The results obtained showed that moisture, air, green organic waste, brown organic waste and microorganism are essential factors with a direct impact on the compost produced.
Sec 2 Curriculum
During our Sec 2 ALP curriculum, our students learnt about the design and construction of a ‘vermicomposting system’. They were introduced to the science behind vermicomposting through hands-on experiences. The infusion of STEM was in the form using Arduino software and hardware where our students learnt to design and create their own automated pH and humidity sensors which were than used to monitor conditions of the ‘vermicomposting system’ that was set up in our school science storeroom.
Throughout the Sec 2 ALP curriculum, the learning objectives were achieved by the students by tapping into the affordances of technology namely through the use of microcontroller such as Arduino. The latter deepened the students learning of the essential parameters that affected the optimal conditions in a vermicomposting system.
In the last 3 lessons of ALP, the Sec 2 students were made to do a project task in their respective groups. The main objective of the project task is to serve as a formative mode of assessment to check if our students could apply their learning from their ALP lesson to solve a real – life problem. The group presentation was graded based on rubrics created by the ALP teachers.
Moving forward to further enhance our students’ analytical thinking and simulate practical applications through smart systems, our school is collaborating with Dr Koh to develop a wireless sensing system for our in-house vermicomposting system. Wireless technologies will enable the remote placement of sensors with real-time data collection. By weaving cutting-edge technologies into our pedagogical approach, we hope to make the learning of Science and Technology not only an enriching experience for our students but also one that promotes discovery learning.