“SCIENCE should also be in NATURE!

Physics, chemistry, and biology are subjects that explore the world around us, subjects that discover the laws of nature, the laws of our universe. Yet all too often, students fail to see the usefulness of these disciplines. “Teacher, why do I need this?” is a very common question from students. Through the eyes of many students, physics is just a bunch of equations that help them pass a test at the end of the semester and not a tool to understand the world around us.

What if part of the solution is that physics lessons are not only in the classroom at the chalkboard and on paper, and not just carefully prepared experiments in the laboratory, but also a bit more uncontrolled experiments in nature? Experiments in their real environment, or lessons in the open air.

Of course, experimenting in nature means more uncertainty, less clear results, and more difficult calculations. But it sends a message to students that even with high school-level physics, we can explore the real nature, our world, our universe. It’s not necessary to live in a world without air, where we can ignore air resistance. It’s not necessary to live in a world where only logs roll down slopes, where all objects are point-like, and, lastly, where the river’s speed is the same everywhere. It’s easier, more straightforward, but it can give students the wrong message that physics only works on paper and not in the real world.

That’s why we need lessons where we take students into nature and give them challenges that stem from real life. This way, through more challenging, complex tasks, we can teach them when and how we can simplify things and not give them pre-simplified, artificial tasks. Tasks in which students can see the essence of science, which actually studies nature and its functioning, not some imaginary world.

At the France Prešeren Gymnasium, at the beginning of the school year, we organized a science day, where we moved physics, chemistry, and biology classes to the banks of the Kokra River. Because of previous floods and the relevance of the topic, students measured the river’s profile and flow velocity in physics, calculating the river’s discharge from the measured data. In chemistry, they conducted a chemical analysis of water to determine its suitability for swimming. As for the biological quality of the water, students learned about it through the study of the olm in the underground tunnels of the city of Kranj.

On the science day, students could answer questions that were interesting and current with their knowledge. At the same time, through tasks, they faced the challenges of conducting research in nature. Thus, by learning outdoors, we at least partially answered the question, “Teacher, why will I need this?”.

Written by: Špela Rakovec, Gimnasium France Prešeren