Imagine flying a paper airplane in class, and not getting in trouble with the teacher for causing such a distraction.
Thousands of students in classrooms across the country did just that on Friday at exactly the same time in an attempt to capture a Guinness world record for the largest science lesson. What they also got was a hands-on, no-textbook lesson on gravity and the atmosphere on Earth, Mars and the moon.
More than 100 locations signed up through the federal government’s science portal. The current record is 13,701 participants, which was achieved in 88 locations in Canada at a similar event last year. Whether the kids on Friday beat the record will not be known for a few weeks as officials collect the data and forward it to Guinness.
For Toronto teacher Zelia Capitao-Tavares, Friday’s science lesson was more than just about beating records. Her Grades 5 and 6 students at McMurrich Junior Public School were among nine Toronto District School Board classes involved in the mass science lesson. They constructed and flew paper airplanes, estimating and recording distances. Ms. Capitao-Tavares prefers to think of textbooks as a “resource” and allows students to experiment in science class.
“It’s sometimes difficult for students to see how they can connect and relate to that environment,” she said. “Any opportunity we have for students to explore learning that is real and experiential, we invite it into our classroom.”
Canadian students generally do well in science, compared with other countries. A 2009 report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found that science performance among Canadian students remained stable between 2006 and 2009. But while only two other countries outperformed Canada in science in 2006 (Finland and Hong-Kong, China), those two countries, along with Korea and Japan, did better than Canada in 2009.
For kids like Gabriel LiVolsi, 11, how Canada fares internationally is nowhere as important as flying paper airplanes and conducting other science experiments in the classroom. The Grade 6 student at McMurrich school was happy to be moving around in class rather than sitting at a desk. And to be part of a mass science lesson happening at the same time across the country was an added bonus.
“To be in the Guinness world records as a kid will be a huge accomplishment,” Gabriel said.