Active Learning is an instruction approach for individuals of all ages who are still developmentally in the sensorimotor and pre-operational stages of learning. It can be utilized to teach most any content at a developmentally appropriate level for these learners. In the videos below you will see an Active Learning approach to teaching a science lesson about plants and their growth cycle.  What both of the students are doing is the basis for all scientific learning – observation, exploration, experimentation, and the development of hypotheses about how the world works.

However, we still need to be able to point to specific skills from the General Curriculum to show this connection. 

The Science Lesson 

Here is a simple science lesson taught in an environment using a HOPSA dress.

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Here is a similar lesson taught using a Support Bench.

Science Lesson Using a Support Bench 

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Description: A science lesson facilitated by using an Active Learning support bench.

Learning about Fossils

In this example a student in a 6th grade classroom, the rest of the class was studying fossils.  Using an Active Learning approach and focusing on pre-requisite skills, this student explored fossils with the goals of increasing tactile exploration, eye-hand coordination, use of two hands together at midline, and comparing textures (rough/smooth, soft/hard, etc.)  The adult could also have a variety of brushes and simply play with them by brushing the fossils in order to add adult-child interaction.

Note that in the photos below, a small paintbrush was added and then a headlamp was introduced to encourage directed visual gaze.

Student exploring fossil using an Active Learning approach     Student examining fossils


Student uses two hands to explore fossil    Small paintbrush in tub of sand


Close up view of student wearing headlamp    Using a headlamp to look at fossils 

Sample General Curriculum Skills in Science

What follows below are some sample skills in the General Curriculum used in Texas (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) in the area of Science at various levels from Pre-K through High School. The activities shown in the video tape relates to these skills.    

Pre-requisite Skills in Science

Energy & Matter: Characteristics and Properties of Matter

  • compare and contrast a variety of mixtures and solutions such as rocks in sand, sand in water, or sugar in water
  • measure, compare, and contrast physical properties of matter, including size, mass, volume, states (solid, liquid, gas), temperature, magnetism, and the ability to sink or float

Organisms & Environment: Identify How Organisms Meet Their Basic Needs

  • identify and compare the parts of plants
  • identify parts of plants such as roots, stem and leaves and parts of animals such as head, eyes, and limbs

-       from the Texas Curriculum Framework Pre-requisite Skills in Science

Sample Science, Grade 1, Curriculum Goals

(5)  Matter and energy. The student knows that objects have properties and patterns. The student is expected to:

(A)  classify objects by observable properties of the materials from which they are made such as larger and smaller, heavier and lighter, shape, color, and texture; and

(B)  predict and identify changes in materials caused by heating and cooling such as ice melting, water freezing, and water evaporating.

Sample Science, Grade 3, Curriculum Goals

(5)  Matter and energy. The student knows that matter has measurable physical properties and those properties determine how matter is classified, changed, and used. The student is expected to:

(A)  measure, test, and record physical properties of matter, including temperature, mass, magnetism, and the ability to sink or float;

 (D)  explore and recognize that a mixture is created when two materials are combined such as gravel and sand and metal and plastic paper clips.

Sample Science, Grade 5, Curriculum Goals

Matter and energy. The student knows that matter has measurable physical properties and those properties determine how matter is classified, changed, and used. The student is expected to:

(A)  classify matter based on physical properties, including mass, magnetism, physical state (solid, liquid, and gas), relative density (sinking and floating), solubility in water, and the ability to conduct or insulate thermal energy or electric energy;

(C)  demonstrate that some mixtures maintain physical properties of their ingredients such as iron filings and sand; and

(D)  identify changes that can occur in the physical properties of the ingredients of solutions such as dissolving salt in water or adding lemon juice to water.

-       from Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills §112.16

Sample Physics, High School, Curriculum Goals

At the high school level areas of science become more specific (e.g., chemistry, physics, biology).  Still all science areas continue to focus on observation, exploration, experimentation and the development and testing of hypothesizes. 

(3)  Scientific processes. The student uses critical thinking, scientific reasoning, and problem solving to make informed decisions within and outside the classroom. The student is expected to:

(A)  in all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student;

 - from Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills, High School Physics, §112.39.

Sample Goal Reflecting the Active Learning Approach

An IEP goal to address science for a sensorimotor level learner would be easy to write and might look like this. 


By the end of the IEP completion date, given a variety of materials used in various Science units (as well as other materials) in combination with perceptualizing aids, the student will experiment and explore the properties and characteristics of organic and inorganic objects and materials through tactile exploration using her mouth, lips, tongue, hands, arms, legs and feet for at least 20 minutes of a 30 minute period.

This goal also provides a goal related to the Expanded Core Curriculum on developing sensory efficiency.


                                   Pinterest collage for Teaching Science using Active Learning approach              support bench science collage