Assistant teacher course/Individual curriculum/handout/Academic topics
Individual curriculum: Academic topics
Pupils interested in agricultural science can be offered the opportunity to work and to experiment in a garden project. The curriculum has obvious connections to biology and chemistry but can also include environmental science, nutritional science and supportive technology. A project with supportive technology can, for instance, be a miniature greenhouse with solar power, electronic measuring equipment and automatic irrigation.
An individual curriculum in astronomy has connections to physics, computer science (e.g. simulations), mathematics and geography (e.g. properties of Mars, Venus, Earth and Moon). Astronomy is usually not a school subject and often holds a special fascination for children and teenagers, which makes it very appropriate as a part of an individual curriculum. Children and teenagers interested in science and science fiction are especially likely to be interested in astronomy. The initial motivation can be a better understanding for science fiction topics but the individual curriculum should introduce more serious topics in between and as the curriculum goals.
Selected hard science fiction books can also be suitable to increase the motivation of a science fiction enthusiast to take a greater interest in the science aspect of the curriculum.
Computer science isn't really a hard science, unless it's seen as a branch of mathematics; that's why computer science should be taught with one or several actual sciences (e.g. mathematics) as the focus of attention. To make computer science more interesting educators may combine it with play or creative work, which is suitable for children or teenagers who are not yet interested. For an individual curriculum, however, it is appropriate to assume that the children or teenagers already are interested in computer science, so the additional motivation is probably not required and computer science can be used to motivate harder science instead.
An individual curriculum for a child that isn't interested in science or needs more encouragement to stay interested can begin with programming environments like Alice or CeeBot but should introduce more serious topics in between and as the curriculum goals.
Example: Write a function plotter
Writing a function plotter is a sensible project with a focus on mathematics that can be useful to improve a pupil's understanding for mathematics. A function plotter can be extended and enhanced over several years to follow the growing mathematical knowledge of the pupil. As part of an individual curriculum the function plotter has a strong relation to school education and goals can be found that develop in parallel with the mathematics curriculum, which makes a function plotter a good choice.
- Write your own functional programming language; an interpreter for the evaluation of simple expressions is a good start and can be extended later on.
- Write a visual function plotter class, which makes use of your programming language.
- Write a user-friendly user interface, which makes use of the function plotter class.
Environmental science connects to biology, chemistry, geography and computer science. Scientific methods can be learned to gather and to analyze environmental data.
- How many climate refugees can your country or region accommodate? You can try to write a computer simulation to gather data with different scenario parameters.
A curriculum in health care can begin with an advanced course in first aid and study of human biology and medicine. The curriculum can connect to nutritional science and physical fitness. Older pupils can also take an internship with a health professional or qualify as a Certified Nursing Assistant or Healthcare Assistant.
The health mentoring course will also become useful as a resource for a health care curriculum.
A curriculum in journalism should aim to produce a pupil magazine (if the school already has one the pupil(s) can join the team or find another focus and make their own).
In order to add a science aspect pupils can write reviews or summaries of scientific articles from (e.g.) Scientific American or Technology Review. The article/magazine should have a sufficient level to represent a challenge for the pupil but shouldn't be too difficult either (e.g. Nature). Journalism can (obviously) offer connections to almost any topic but a curriculum should encourage a certain amount of topics that involve sciences.
Pupils should be given false clues on occasion, so they can learn that they have to distinguish between nonsense and correct research. There is a sufficient amount of magazines that provide articles about nonsense. Pupils can also draft a code of conduct for their own publication concerning research and verification of sources. 
Pupils can also learn a less common language (not English or French, which are likely to be school subjects) as part of an individual curriculum. The curriculum should connect to the history and politics of the country or countries where the language is spoken.
A course in logic can cover topics from mathematics, computer science and philosophy and all types of logical puzzles. A special emphasis can be on exercises where common sense errs, which implies a focus on logical fallacies, cognitive biases and the field of stochastics. A possible mode for a voluntary course is to invite pupils to gather and to prepare logical puzzles for presentation in the course.
- Stewart, Ian (2004-07-08). Math Hysteria: Fun and Games with Mathematics. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198613369. http://books.google.com/books?id=fMSZ4OgITQ8C.
- Gardner, Martin (2005). Martin Gardner's Mathematical Games (CD-ROM). Mathematical Association of America. ISBN 0883855453. http://books.google.com/books?id=M7x5AAAACAAJ.
Microscopy as part of an individual curriculum should be introduced with the book (or film) Powers of Ten (which is, by the way, also suitable for an astronomy curriculum).
To motivate research in microscopy the curriculum should motivate pupils to make their own learning diary with photographies of preparations and documentary articles. This way a microscopy curriculum can have connections to biology, chemistry, medicine, scientific writing and photography.
|Science is experience becoming rational. The effect of science is thus to change men's idea of the nature and inherent possibilities of experience.|
Science as a subject may seem too general but why should the interests of the participants be restrained if the goals are to learn scientific methodology and to allow interest-driven learning? A course in science can choose any topic that allows scientific analysis. An important goal can be that the pupils choose the topics themselves in order to allow interest-driven learning. The teacher and his assistants aim to teach the scientific methods and provide the tools the pupils need for scientific research. The teacher can also provide a collection of topics for pupils who do not have ideas for research. The pupils should form between two and eight work groups and work on aspects of the same topic or on different topics. The course can allow the pupils to present their findings to the other work groups (or to the school community in a "school symposium"). To teach the necessary mathematics or computer science for scientific methods the course can function like a regular course in mathematics or computer science on occasion. The course should have its own democratic body to determine the curriculum for the next weeks. Assistant teachers are especially useful to prepare lessons for a flexible science course.
Example: The search for the smallest particle
|Because of our education we use words, thinking they are ideas, to dispose of questions, the disposal being in reality simply such an obscuring of perception as prevents us from seeing any longer the difficulty.|
A sensible goal for a science course is to invent terminology for things that haven't yet been thoroughly analyzed.  Only after something has been subject to sufficient study the real terminology should be used. This way the object of study can remain more something to be researched than something to be found in an encyclopedia. A course could begin the search for the smallest particle of matter (e.g. the "Y o c t o particle") with trying to break small things and to put them under microscopes and continue with microscopy of plant cells. An example hypothesis could be that stones are apparently made of sand particles and that sand particles therefore could be seen as the smallest particles that compose stones, unless somebody could propose how to smash sand. The pupils should learn to write down an expectancy before each experiment and to write down their findings afterwards.
Theories from the Theory Design Lab can be used in regular subjects or in a subject "Theory". Theory can have the special property that the teacher presents interdisciplinary topics, possibly following the stated interests and requests of the audience, but that every lesson contains alternative theories, mistakes or describes theories that merely happen to disagree with reality; the audience has to consider the propositions and has to decide which parts they believe in. In theory the audience should vote at the end of each lesson which theories or parts of theories they believe and which parts they don't believe. Theory can have the advantage of edutainment: Some theories may get funny enough to have real entertainment value for a larger audience.
- Theoretical computer science (Wikipedia)
- WP:SOURCES (Wikipedia policy)
- Inventing terminology (Meta-schoolbook Writer's Guide, Wikibooks)
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