Can practical topics be taught at home?

by Emily

Science can be a tricky subject to teach, combining a strong theoretical background with an often exciting and diverse practical element. In a home tuition situation, this practical aspect can be hard to achieve because chemicals, biological materials and safety equipment are difficult to source and dangerous to use.

Does this make any difference to an education? The whole purpose of study in general, and the study of science in particular, is to understand the world around us. This does not necessarily entail experiencing it. Some parts of science can not be experienced - for example; we know and understand that earthquakes are caused by tectonic shifts - but we can't witness those shifts ourselves. It should also be noted that final exams for all scientific subjects are heavily biased towards theory.

On the other hand, a practical demonstration can undoubtedly aid learning and the retention of information, especially for those students who struggle with the abstract. It is also a way of engendering enthusiasm for the subject. Most adults can recall at least one dramatic science lesson from their childhood. For those areas we can't experience first-hand there are study aids, animations and other visual representations that can help plug the gap between knowledge and experience.

As a Science tutor, do you feel a practical element is necessary to this area of education? If so how have you incorporated this aspect in your lessons?