ISY Learning Story

Grade 3 goes bananas!

In meeting one of the ISY supported Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), our third graders learned how natural selection and human artificial selection can affect the future of the planet. An NGSS connected ‘Mystery Science’ unit suggested using apples as the subject for the learning experience. However apples are not native to Myanmar, so Ms. Saunders and Ms. Magers, our third grade teachers, switched apples for bananas. 

They began by having the students taste different kinds of bananas, followed by comparing the traits of banana varieties we have in the Myanmar markets. They looked at the sweetness, texture and color. In addition, students learned the names and spelling of the Myanmar varieties in different languages. This all provided an authentic local context for the learning.

Learning about bananas was the perfect lead into the related scientific concept of pollination. Why do plants make fruit and how do seeds spread and replant? In exploring these questions, students learned the parts of plants, the anatomy of flowers and fruits and the growth stages of fruit from germination to maturation. Children worked in groups, as well as independently and shared their thoughts and reflections on their own prior knowledge and experiences they have had with bananas, fruits and flowers. Accessing students’ prior knowledge is an important part of building new knowledge. It makes sense that students will have more prior knowledge within a local context that they are familiar with. A simple switch from apples to bananas gives students a stronger foundation upon which to build new knowledge about complicated concepts such as artificial selection, heredity, and pollination.

Building on students’ prior knowledge through authentic local contexts for learning also puts students in a stronger position to extend their learning to issues of global significance. The students might consider how an understanding of artificial selection, heredity, and pollination could lead to zero hunger. Or the students might consider how climate action is necessary if many insects are to survive to pollinate the plants we rely on for food. The students might then be inspired to take some action in relation to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of Zero Hunger or Climate Action.

Switching apples for bananas seems like such a simple idea. But it is an excellent example of how connecting learning to a student’s own culture and context can make it easier for them to apply their learning to issues that impact us all.