The early teenage years are exciting, eventful, and yet full of anxiety for children. Their physical growth, and its impression on them, is a major phenomenon occupying their attention. Most girls may gain puberty by this age and also grow in height really fast, while boys maybe a year behind them. Both girls and boys may feel awkward physically, be anxious about their body image, and check themselves out in the mirror frequently.
Influences like physical appearance, moods, privacy, peer acceptance, peer comparison, and bullying all contribute to making their entry into teenage more complex than what we may think as parents and educators. Some of them may be open to take higher physical risks (e.g. in sports, biking, or trekking) while at the same time slowing down on intellectual progress. The changing hormones, moodiness, and physical growth also mean many distractions from organized schoolwork.
Yet, on the cognitive front, they will be challenged with more integration of concepts, handling more abstraction, more formal learning, and a wider perspective of the world around them – present and past.
For example, in languages they participate in appreciation of fiction, book reviews, creating storylines and plays, describing processes and events, and developing essays that bring out their unique thinking.
In Mathematics, abstract concepts like the various sets of numbers, arithmetic of powers, averages, Euclidean geometry, an initiation into algebra, preliminary statistics may all be covered at this stage.
In history, they may delve deeper into a particular period of their nation’s journey, e.g. the colonial period, or integration of multiple kingdoms into a nation-state, the advent of industrialization, and so on.
In physical sciences, formal introduction to classical mechanics, electricity, magnetism, atomic structure, and the basics of chemistry may happen. In natural sciences, they may continue using the reductionist viewpoint, and analyse plants and animals as being built from complex-to-simple building blocks.
Implications for nature education:
The integration of concepts from the previous year should continue in this year as well. Particularly,
- The key concepts in climate, geology, and oceans, if not studied so far, should be studied at this level, with their inter-relationships examined. Connections of these with the history of life on planet should be drawn.
- Concepts like land use and map reading in geography should be utilized to introduce study of land use change from natural landscapes to human-modified landscapes.
- Studies of historical periods should tie in resource use, resource exploitation, land use change (e.g. due to agriculture), and industrialization leading to change in socioeconomic fabric of a civilization.
- This is a good year to revisit concepts of ecosystem and biodiversity in depth. Ecological concepts could also be introduced in greater detail when studying natural sciences (to balance out the reductionist viewpoint, which otherwise takes a precedence)
- The study of plant and animal building blocks (e.g. cells, organs, systems) should be linked to history of life on Earth and evolutionary changes.
- This may also be a good year to kick-off population studies. Typical population studies at school level cover census, birth and death rates, literacy, gender ratio, etc. From a sustainability standpoint, population studies should also cover the ecological impact of a growing population, and the environmental issues created when consumption and technological complexity in a population increases.