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Last five decades have witnessed the comprehensive growth of science education around the world as the science is regarded as the major tenets of innovation and economic growth. Various extant studies on science education have concentrate on how to deliver and put the science in both curriculum and classrooms. However, there are rarely researches on the evaluation of the science curriculum and its impact on the scientific skills. Likewise, despite the science curricula being implemented from the 2009 onward in Ankara Children’s University, they have not yet been evaluated so far. This is the why it is essential for the evaluation of them due to the changes in the national science curricula and technological developments. This study aims at evaluating to update, change, or reform the science curricula in terms of learning objectives, content, learning activities, and the evaluation. Utilizing the mixed method, the study group was composed of 1,218 participating children and nine science educators. Program evaluation and semi-structured interview forms were developed to collect the data. Then, the QUAN&QUAL data were analyzed by the programs. The findings are as the followings: the curricula meet the expectations of children and help them to learn something new and to develop the skills to use in daily lives. Moreover, the top three things mostly liked are the play-based activities, learning something new and learning further about animals. Science educators have mentioned that children’s sense of curiosity, their active participation, and questions throughout the enactment of the science curricula made them happy. Keywords Children’s University, science education, science curriculum, curriculum development, curriculum evaluation and it cannot be denied that there is a significant relationship Introduction between the early spread of science to people and the devel- At no time in history has strengthening science education opment and prosperity levels of societies. However, the sci- been more important than ever. Science is an important and entific thinking only is not enough to develop the emotions, sine qua non medium for the countries to develop and to be intuitions and creative thinking power of human, but the art industrialized. The current context of science education, sci- should not be neglected in personal development. ence, and the science of learning is shaped by the initiatives Duschl et al. (2007) have stated that the study group of at the height of the cold war in United States of America. The science scholars see scientific inquiry as a model or theory 1950s and 1960s saw the first radical change in science for teaching and learning science in the classroom. The term teacher education and curriculum reform under the auspices inquiry was preferred to provoke the idea of teaching and of National Science Foundation (NSF). This milestone in learning science by the way scientists actually practiced: science education, science, and the science of learning has problem solving through formulating and testing hypothesis focused on updating the way of science teaching by modern- izing the content of science courses. This step led the funda- Ankara University, Keçiören, Türkiye mentals for the succeeding of science education research and Ankara University, Çankaya, Türkiye reform (Duschl et al., 2007). In this context; scholars of sci- Ankara University, Tandoğan, Türkiye ence develop a project titled as “Taking Science to School” so 4 Çankırı Karatekin University, Türkiye as to enhance, facilitate, and disseminate the science educa- Corresponding Author: tion (Taşar, 2007). This project makes an important contribu- Metin Kartal, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Ankara University, tion to science education in school. Moreover, Gopnik (2009) Fakülteler, Erdem Sk. No:5, Çankaya, Ankara 06590, Türkiye. stated that infants and young learners are intuitive scientists Email: email@example.com Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open (Aral et al., 2020; Dewey, 1910; Schwab, 1960). During the children’s universities in the last three decades. It was aimed inquiry method in science education; students are expected to broaden the physical and formal border of the school and to far earlier meet and use higher-order thinking skills to cor- to deliver the science education outside the school in the relate scientific concepts to formulate the declarative, proce- light of developmental traits of children, such as curiosity, dural, and conceptual knowledge. The earlier children meet questioning and learning (Aral & Özdoğan Özbal, 2017; science inside or outside the school, the easier children Köseoğlu et al., 2008). In turn, the first Children’s University achieve scientific thinking skills such as synthesizing, ana- (CU) was founded in Birmingham, England in 1993 led by lyzing, scientific, problem solving, and critical thinking Tim Brighouse in order to seek the answer for many prob- (Dewey, 1910; Larimore, 2020; Nurkholisoh, 2020). The lems, but one focal point was the gap between educational relative researches prove that children have an interest in sci- opportunities offered to students in the highest and lowest ence from very early periods and they define science and sci- attaining schools (MacBeath & Waterhouse, 2008; Overton, entist in different ways (Aral et al., 2020; Güler & Akman, 2010). The developed policies of CU in many countries as 2006; Tokuç & Aral, 2020). It has been also concluded that well as Turkey come up with intensive programs, which have the science programs developed for children have positive provided to support the learning and growth of many chil- contributions to children’s learning by supporting their sci- dren and young people in science education with sharing the entific process skills (Ardaç & Mugaloğlu, 2002; responsibilities of the schools and teachers in science educa- Büyüktaşkapu et al., 2012; Hançer & Yalçın, 2009; Harris- tion (MacBeath & Waterhouse, 2008; Tymms, 2004). The Helm & Gronlund, 2000; Sağlam & Aral, 2015; Yücelyi̇ği̇t motto of CU is to teach children the love for learning with a & Aral, 2021). When these activities are combined with school–university partnership and teachers, and to develop those, such as writing or reading, successful results are the extra-curricular activities, high quality, exciting, and achieved (Ferreira, 2004; Taşar, 2007) scientific processes innovative activities for the disadvantaged pupils outside of integrated into children’s natural activities provide fun learn- the formal school hours. CUs award the achievement and ing (Akkaya, 2006; Akman, 2003; Aral et al., 2020; Başdağ, participation through certifications. Raising children’s scien- 2006). Moreover, Ayvacı and Yurt (2016) have put forward tific awareness and understanding is a key outcome for the that the years between 5 and 7-early childhood- are vital for pupils in turn to be the satellite navigation to better places in important for developmental advances that establish the ori- life. The impacts of these activities under CUs were found entation and attitude toward the science that will shape their positive, that’s why people are universally encouraged and desire for learning and curiosity as well as being more com- dedicated (Children’s University, 2019). CU shares the petent, independent, self-awareness. Last but not least, there nature of correct questioning methods and in-depth learning is a project titled as “the science meets with the children” with children in an environment of independent discussion conducted by Aral et al. (2019) in Ankara Children’s and expression as well as the significant and expert contribu- University. In this project, it was aimed at strengthening the tion to scientific awareness nearly all the schools do not infrastructure of Ankara Children’s University; developing manage. Children in the milieu of CU discover the opportu- the instructional materials for science education; taking the nities to view and evaluate the world through their own eyes. science to a 6,000 disadvantaged children for the sake of cre- In turn these opportunities provide the affectional bonds to ating positive attitude toward the science. children to raise their attention to novel and creative things. It also creates a playing field of opportunity and opens up access to children of all backgrounds. An Overview of the Children’s University in the In the similar notion of objective spirit in the world CUs; World and Turkey Ankara Children’s University (ACU) is the first CU in Turkey The main mission of the children’s universities across the founded in 2009 with the support of the Scientific and world is to consolidate the bound between the science and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK). Soil society. Hereby, these attempts have played an icebreaker Science School and Creative Ideas projects were the first two service before the society by establishing a fortified bridge projects of this university. These two programs continued between the so-called “Ivory Towered” university and soci- their studies, and in the light of the gained experiences, the ety. Moreover, this invaluable service fulfilled the “commu- faculty in the Department of Anthropology developed the nity service” mission of the universities embracing three School of Life Sciences curriculum. The success and on- missions: teaching, research, and community service. going growth of ACU continued with the Little Gardeners Accordingly, the higher education appreciates the third mis- and Astronomy School. Currently, the role of partnerships in sion through the children’s universities in order to expand the “taking the third mission of the university” to the community cooperation with local schools and communities (Petrova and schooling will discover children’s science potential and et al., 2020). create a far brighter future than ever. In framework of the The notion under the motto of “Taking Science to School” strategies to reduce and diminish the barriers between the uni- has been widespread and elaborated to meet the students versity and community, ACU has developed and been still with the science was embodied with the establishment of the carrying out nine science curricula to allow the participants to Aral et al. 3 engage with the science educators and to support the school Universities was that none of the previous studies explored sciences classes through family friendly extra-curricular the impact of the science programs over the positive or nega- activities as follows: (1) The Code of Life: DNA; (2) Insect tive attitude when the children participated in those, namely, Festival School; (3) Who Shakes Our World?; (4) Astronomy how they experience the science curricula, and in turn depict School; (5) Thinking Owls; (6) School of Life Sciences; (7) their in-class and extra-curricular experiences about the pro- My Little Friends: Insects Science School; (8) I am a grams. Hence, this study was designed to evaluate the nine Veterinary Surgeon Science School, and (9) Is There Any of science curricula implemented in Ankara Children’s You Who Doesn’t Like Math? As for February 2009, ACU University in views of the science educators and children in has been affiliated as a member of EUCU.NET (European order to bridge this gap in the existing study. Children’s Universities Network). This affiliation provides an opportunity for observation of the carried-out studies abroad Aim and Research Questions with exchanging the information with the third-parties. By the experiences of Ankara University about the Children This study probes ways of which the science curricula imple- University, the project titled as Innovative Science Education mented in Ankara Children’s University was experienced by Methods: Children’s University was launched on May 2009 the children and teachers who participate in the classes. with the funding of the Scientific Research Projects (BAP) Toward this aim, this study was guided by the following four Coordinator of Ankara University. research questions: ACU primarily and literally aims at developing children’s skills in scientific thinking and creativity through the science 1. How is the distribution of the participating children’s programs. Under this aim, ACU offers the science education respond to the Evaluation Form? opportunities to an average 3,000 pupils every year by widen- 2. What are the insights of the participating children ing participations and school engagements. The science pro- about the science curricula? grams within ACU strengthen the ties between the university 3. What are the insights of the science educators about and society, and in turn provide the opportunity for children to the science curricula? learn by doing. Moreover, ACU aims at amalgamating the sci- 4. What is the extend of congruence between the ence and art in a melting pod to develop the skills of children intended, enacted, and observed curriculum? in the critical thinking; scientific thinking and reasoning; cre- ativity; judgment and decision-making; questioning; curiosity, Methods and problem solving by active learning strategies. Research Design Defining the Problem This study employed a mixed-method design in an attempt to combine the strengths of QUAN and QUAL methods Reviewing the national and international literature and its (Creswell, 2009). This design provides “more complete impact over the attitude toward science (Arisoy, 2007; understanding of research problems than does the use of Azizoglu & Cetin, 2009; Çepni et al., 2006; Gibson & Chase, either approach alone” (Fraenkel & Wallen, 2012). The data 2002; Hacieminoglu, 2019; Hren et al., 2004; Jenkins & collection instruments were enrichened using “question- Nelson, 2005; Kayabaşı et al., 2019; Kaya & Kaya, 2019; naire, observation, and interview.” In this study, it was aimed Lindahl, 2007; Marulcu et al., 2014; Orduna- Armando, at evaluating the science curricula in Ankara Children’s 2017; Osborne et al., 2003; Overton, 2010; Öztürk & University (ACU). Accordingly, a sequential explanatory Bozkurt-Altan, 2019; Sağlam & Aral, 2015; Ünal & Aral, design was utilized in this study. In this design, firstly, 2014; Weinburgh, 1995; Yücelyiğ̇ it & ̇ Aral, 2021), compar- QUAN data are collected; then QUAL data are so, which ing the studies on children’s perceptions of their experience. seems separate, but tightly connected (Creswell, 2009). The The results of the studies and researches have suggested that QUAL data are used to help further explain the QUAN data students tend to hold negative attitudes toward science. Such in order to fulfill this connection (Creswell, 1999). The key an attitude prevents almost all students from developing pos- reason behind the use of the sequential explanatory strategy itive attitudes toward scientific research, reasoning, thinking, was to yield the incremental and important data for the eval- and inquiry. In this context, Children Universities are impor- uation of science curricula in ACU. tant places to develop positive attitudes toward science. Determining this gap in the review of literature, the enacted Participants and Study Setting science programs in Ankara Children’s University (ACU) and its counterpart in the world are theoretically and practi- Selection of Participants cally aimed at fostering and developing children’s creative and scientific thinking skills, and develop a positive attitude This study was carried out with three different study groups toward science through the extra-curricular activities. in Ankara Children’s University. The first study group con- Nonetheless, one big gap in the research about the Children’s sisted of 1,218 participating children (male = 626 and 51.4%; 4 SAGE Open female = 592 and 48.6%) in nine science programs. The dis- collection, an evaluation form was used to collect the tribution of participating children in nine science programs QUAL + QUAN data from the participating children about was as follows: (1) The Code of Life: DNA (n = 99; 8%); (2) the enacted science curriculum and its teaching-learning pro- Insect Festival School (n = 101; 8,3%); (3) Who Shakes Our cess. This form consists of 13 items developed by the World? (n = 106; 8,7%); (4) Astronomy School (n = 109; researchers. The items were classified as “1 = Yes, 2 = No, 8.9%); (5) Thinking Owls (n = 117; 9,6%); (6) School of Life 3 = Partially, 4 = Non-Respondent.” The Evaluation Form Sciences (n = 125; 10.3%); (7) My Little Friends: Insects also have four open-ended questions. The instrument was Science School (n = 146; 12%); (8) I am a Veterinary Surgeon pilot tested on a small group (n = 53) in order to validate that Science School (n = 184; 15,1%), and (9) Is There Any of the questions were understood and correctly interpreted. You Who Doesn’t Like Math? (n = 231; 19%). Accordingly, Additionally, a semi-structured interview (Feedback Form) the most preferred science curriculum was “Is There Any of was designed to collect QUAL data from both participating You Who Doesn’t Like Math? (n = 231; 19%)”; the lowest children and science educators. This form contains nine one was “The Code of Life: DNA (n = 99, 8.1%) in Ankara open-ended questions about the pros-and-cons of the science Children’s University.” curriculum; children’s perspectives and children’s positive The second study group were the science educators of and negative experiences in ACU. In the part of documents nine science curricula. These were the faculty members from analysis, nine science curricula were reviewed and the the various faculties, such as Languages, History and recorded videos on the teaching-learning process of enacted Geography; Educational Sciences, Science, Engineering, science curriculum were analyzed. Veterinary Medicine, and Agriculture. Moreover, the docu- ments of nine intended science curricula were evaluated. Data Analysis The study contained both QUAN and QUAL data. In the Study Setting level of data analysis respectively, the QUAN analysis (fre- Ankara Children’s University in Ankara was chosen as a quency and percentage) of the evaluation form was carried research site—in which there were the nine-science curricu- out by SPSS 21.0. Summary statistics (frequencies and per- lum/program were carried out for the primary and lower sec- centages) were calculated and tabulated. For the QUAL data, ondary schools. This setting was selected because it was the recorded semi-structured interviews were transcribed founded in 2009 as a first children’s university in Turkey and verbatim and uploaded to MAXQDA 11.0. All sets of QUAL had been in a full-service operation since then. Before hav- data from the study were analyzed by the researchers. ing been founded, the faculty members of Ankara Children’s Inductive thematic qualitative data analysis was applied. The University had conducted various projects for developing the researcher read each data set twice for common understand- science education for the children. Upon this academic and ing of each code and sub-codes. Essential codes and sub- intellectual infrastructure, the faculty had developed the sort codes were then highlighted in each set of data. Then, the of science curricula under the roof of Ankara Children’s highlighted codes and sub-codes were sorted into categories University. However, there had been no follow-up evaluation that had descriptors for similar/dissimilar information until today and hence the need for this study. (Cohen et al., 2007). Next, data analysis was integrated to examine emerging patterns and themes in terms of codes and sub-codes, and to refine data collection strategies (Miles Data Collection et al., 2018). In framework of document analysis, the The research procedures were carried out under a systematic 1,013-minute videos were transcribed verbatim and coded. approach. The function of the member checking validating These results gave a hint for the enacted science curriculum was utilized to validate the research data. Moreover, the tri- and it was compared with the documents of the intended sci- angulation of the data source was used to validate the find- ence curriculum about learning objectives; content, teach- ings for the sake of the trustworthiness. Data were collected, ing-learning process (strategies, methods, and techniques) as part of a project funded by Ankara University Scientific and assessment process. In turn, the whole part of the Research Project Office as the supporter of this research, via intended nine science curricula were revised and reformed in the data collection instruments (document analysis, semi- view of Bloom’s revised taxonomy. Thus, this document structured interview form, and questionnaire) in May– analysis helped to see the similarities and differences December 2018. The researchers informed the participating between intended and enacted curriculum. children and science educators for collecting data consent of them. Results The results of this study were structured in four divisions, Instrument respectively. In the first, second, and third division, there are Evaluation form, semi-structured interview form, and docu- two sourcing data collected from both nine science educators ment analysis were used to collect the data. For the data and children. The first and the second data were collected Aral et al. 5 Table 1. Results of the Highly Positively Rated in Evaluation Form. Non- Yes Partially No Respondent Items n (%) n (%) n (%) n %) Having enjoyed participating in science curriculum 1,013 (85.6) 133 (10.9) 42 (3.4) — Learning something new in science curriculum 995 (81.7) 138 (11.3) 83 (6.8) 2 (0.2) Suggesting the science curriculum to my friends 916 (75.2) 191 (15.7) 93 (7.6) 18 (1.5) Wishing to participate in a different science curriculum 891 (73.2) 198 (16.3) 121 (9.9) 8 (0.7) Wishing to participate in science curriculum again 872 (71.6) 182 (14.9) 152 (12.5) 1 (0.1) Having enjoyed studying at the fields of science 832 (68.3) 256 (21) 124 (10.2) 6 (0.5) from participating children by an evaluation form; the third positioning “a negative image” toward the following state- data collected from nine science educators and participating ments: “transferring something new to daily life (n = 160; students by semi-structured interviews. The last data covers 13.1); learnings in science curriculum having made my life the extent of congruence between the intended, enacted, and easy (n = 156; 12.8%); seeking to participate in science cur- observed curriculum. riculum again (n = 152; 12.5); lastly having developed the new skills though the science curriculum (n = 149; 12.2%).” All in all, the participating children, who a negative image The Distributions of the Participating Children’s about the science curricula, have found them as “not enough Respond to the Evaluation Form to develop the curiosity; not finding a chance to learn new things; finding the science uninteresting; lastly not useful in The results of this division were tabulated under a set of everyday life.” major highlights reached from a 4-point evaluation form consisting of “Yes; Partially; No; Non-Respondent” about the nine science curricula. The tabulation was distributed The Insights From the Participating Children into two section. The first section is the highly positively rated with “YES”; the second one is the highly negatively At the end of the Evaluation Form, the participating children rated with “NO” in wake of a science curriculum by the par- received an open-ended question, which covers the follow- ticipating children. The highly positively six children’s ing three points: (1) the mostly desiring side of the science responses in terms of the effectiveness and impact of the sci- curriculum; (2) the mostly undesirable side of the science ence curriculum over them are given in Table 1. curriculum; and (3) suggestions to the science curriculum. As seen in Table 1, children’s positive responses in terms Asking the participating children about three things mostly of the effectiveness and impact of nine science curriculum liked in the science curricula, all of them wrote down the top over them are distribute as follows, respectively: “enjoyed three things to the first line of open-ended box as the follow- participating in science curriculum (n = 1013; 85.6%); learn- ings: (1) learning about animals, (2) having the surprises during ing something new (n = 995; 81.7%); suggesting the science the lectures, (3) playing games and doing enjoyable activities. curriculum to my friends (n = 916; 75.2%); wishing to par- The top three things to the second line of it were (1) playing ticipate in a different science curriculum (n = 891; 73.2%); games and doing activities, (2) learning something new, (3) wishing to participate in science curriculum again (n = 872; learning about animals.” For the third line; they wrote down the 71.6%); lastly enjoyed studying at the fields of science followings: (1) playing games and doing enjoyable activities, (n = 832; 68.3%).” Overall, the participating children found (2) learning about animals, (3) wishing to know insects and the science curricula as “highly enjoyable, playful, informa- learning something new.” When evaluating the views stated by tive, useful, and salient.” the children, the most recursive and mod of the statements was The highly negatively six children’s responses for the “playing games and doing enjoyable activities.” effectiveness and impact of the science curriculum over them Asking the participating children about three things are given in Table 2 mostly not liked in the science curricula, all of them wrote Analyzing the Table 2, children’s negative responses in down the top four things to the open-ended box as the fol- terms of the effectiveness and impact of nine science curricu- lowings, respectively: (1) not able to express my thoughts lum over them are distribute as follows, respectively. Half of adequately, (2) not learning something new, (3) playing the participating children have developed a negative attitude games and doing enjoyable activities, (4) getting to know toward “wanting to be a scientist (n = 453; 37.2%).” Nearly insects. Overall, when evaluating the statements, it was half of them have agreed upon “NOT having developed a understood there were not enough space to give voice and curiosity to further learn about the newly learnings (n = 295; power to the participating children in the learning 24.2%).” Despite the minority of the participating children environments. 6 SAGE Open Table 2. Results of the Highly Negatively Rated in Evaluation Form. Non- Yes Partially No Respondent Items n (%) n (%) n (%) n (%) Wanting to be a scientist in the future 474 (38.9) 282 (23.2) 453 (37.2) 9 (0.7) Having developed the curiosity to further learn about the newly 589 (48.4) 328 (26.9) 295 (24.2) 6 (0.5) learnings Transferring something new to daily life 785 (64.4) 267 (21.9) 160 (13.1) 6 (0.5) Learnings in science curriculum made my life easier 738 (60.6) 319 (26.2) 156 (12.8) 5 (0.4) Seeking to participate in science curriculum again 872 (71.6) 182 (14.9) 152 (12.5) 1 (0.1) Having developed the new skills through the science curriculum 802 (65.8) 255 (20.9) 149 (12.2) 12 (1) is our greatest happiness, especially when they come, hug and The participating children have the top three suggestions kiss us.” to the science curricula as follows: (1) learning something new, (2) different learning activities and games; lastly (3) In the “T2” theme, the insights of educators about the learning about more animals. deficiencies of the curricula could be categorized under four titles: Deficiencies in evaluation; material and finance lack; The Insights From the Science Educators lack of educators, and lack of child-centered curriculum. The educators generally have criticized the fact that the classes The results of this division were a set of eight themes encap- were teacher-centered/dominated during the enactment of sulating key ideas about the nature of nine science curricula, the curriculum. In some of science curriculum, it was empha- on which there was consensus by nine science educators. sized that deficiencies in the evaluation process had been Although some of the themes are already the anatomy stemmed from the lack of a valid and reliable assessment (learning objectives, teaching-learning, process and the tool. The lack of material-finance was driven by non-avail- like) of science curricula, others are about the developmen- ability of an allocated specific budget to the curriculum. tal process of them. The themes are as the following: (T1) Finally, the educators expressed the lack of qualified assis- The most enjoyable sides of the science curriculum, (T2) tantship to support them in the course of curriculum The deficiencies of the curricula, (T3) The emergence of implementation. science curriculum development idea, (T4) The curriculum development process, (T5) The curriculum reform, (6) The (P1): “At the end of the program, a professional assessment enactment of learning objectives in the curriculum (T7) The scale, questionnaire studies and tests should be increased in allocated time, and (T8) The Realization of intended learn- order to understand whether our program has achieved its full ing activities. purpose.” The description of the themes. The explicit descriptions of (P6): “The biggest deficiency of our program is the budget and the number of staff.” generated themes in this study are as followings. The “T1” theme covers the insights of science educators about what (P7): “I don’t think the program needs any support other than they felt happy and they were pleasure when the educators that it needs support in terms of practitioner support.” saw children being happy during the science curriculum. The most enjoyable part of the curriculum was to arouse (P2): “Our shortcoming is that the programs need to be student- children’s curiosity, questioning, and inquiry about a sci- oriented. I have a lot of dominance in my program. It needs to be ence topic subject and to facilitate their active participation student-oriented, and I’m not quite able to do that.” during the teaching-learning process. In the “T3” theme, the idea of developing the science cur- P1: “The excitement and happiness of the students while playing riculum were emerged from the various reasons: the former a veterinarian near to the end of the curriculum has always developed projects by the educators; adapting the science made me very happy.” curriculum abroad; aspiring to meet the science with chil- dren; popularizing the logic of science; raising the awareness P3: “I enjoy it so much when I hear sophisticated, in-depth about the science; creating a bridge between the science and answers and comments. community, and invigorating the K-12 education with sci- P6: “Although their unending questions tire us, it also makes us ence. Moreover, the science educators also develop the sci- very happy. Their joy ‘after’ seeing their DNA is worth seeing. It ence curriculum that children could develop a key Aral et al. 7 understanding the types of vertebrates, such as fish, amphib- the appropriateness/adequacy of the program with practitioners from Educational Sciences Faculty, we carried out our pilot ians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Herewith, children could program to gifted students in 2012. The students’ desire to stay be assisted to learn the content and to relate the with the old at the observatory and make more observations, and their in subject matter presented by their teachers. Lastly, the sci- verbally positive feedbacks showed that we were on the right ence educators have tried to eliminate or minimize the fear path. Over the years, we have enriched our program by adding toward the subject fields of science; to increase the social new activities.” awareness about the subject fields of it, and to share the sci- ence experience the society. In the “T5” theme; the whole science curriculum in ACU was reformed and updated in the lights of the findings of (P5): “During my academic visits to Canada, Italy and Belgium, evaluation. These reforms and updates covered the educa- I found that educational content for children was created in the tional materials and resources; the contents of the nine sci- Anthropology department. When I returned to Turkey, I heard ence curricula; the duration of nine science subjects teaching. that something called CU was in the process of being established. Lastly, all science curricula were re-arranged in accordance When we heard this idea, we started working to create a program called Life Sciences and prepared the program.” with the characteristics of the target age group (gifted, spe- cial needs groups, etc.). (P8): “In our country, mathematics is always seen as one of the most difficult field of sciences. It is even seen as a fearful dream (P1): “We update every event we organize, our activity program of children. Since it is my field of study, I thought about what I may vary according to the age groups of children, educational could do to make children love math.” level, types of schools they study (private schools, public schools, vocational schools, schools for gifted ones, etc.).” (P9): “We have been actively organizing popular events at Ankara University Kreiken Observatory (AUKO) for about (P7): “Initially, the program was developed for high school 15 years. Based on these experiences, we wanted to provide students and then adapted to the secondary school level. Upon astronomy education especially for 5th, 6th and 7th grade request from various age groups, the program was revised. In students.” addition, similar programs, especially abroad, were continuously monitored and appropriate activities were included in the program. Similar investigations and updates are currently being made.” In the “T4” theme, there seemed several similarities and differences in the process of developing the different science In the “T6” theme; the science educators evaluated their curriculum. But the broad five modularity and commonalty lectures to have achieved the learning objectives during the steps for developing the science curriculum was conducted enactment of the science curriculum. Depending upon the with the support and help of the curriculum-developers from feedback of participating children and recorded enacted cur- the Faculty of Educational Sciences as follows: (1) riculum; there was a concordance between the intended and Determining the age group for the all science curriculum; (2) enacted curriculum. need-analysis for all curriculum; (3) a child-centered approach for the science curriculum; (4) facilitating the good (P9): “We carry out the curriculum/programs in accordance practices and examples of the conducted projects; (5) con- with the learning objectives. The best proof of this is that the duction a pilot study for all curriculum. students do not want to go to their homes at the end of the day and their desire specifically to make more observations with (P8): “The process of creating the program was primarily in the telescopes.” form of a project proposal. Before creating the project proposal, I came together with a program developer from Hacettepe, two (P6): “The program is implemented in accordance with its mathematics teachers, three classroom teachers and a software purpose. Children of all ages and schools are very happy at the developer. We talked about what kind of activities we could end of the activity, expressing that they have learned many new design during the summer. First of all, the age group was things and have changed their perspectives.” important to us. We planned to start from 10-12 age group” In the “T7” theme; there were two distinctive views of (P3): “In the process of creating the program, videos of the science educators about the duration and allocated time for activities in the West were watched, related literature was the curricula. One camp was on the sufficiency side of dura- searched and all necessary materials (thought-provoking tion for raising the awareness in participating children (tak- animations, philosopher words, game designs, stories to be ing into their attention span persistence or distractibility) used, etc.) were selected and prepared accordingly. Attention toward the science; another camp was the insufficient or lim- was paid to children’s coming from different parts of Turkey, ited side of duration for carrying out the various in the in- their differences in terms of interests, abilities and tendencies. A team of 3-4 people has been formed in this direction.” class activities; games, or wrap-up activities. (P9): “Astronomy activities for the 5th-7th grade students were (P8): “I think the time allocated to the curriculum/program is observed during the creation of the program. After evaluating sufficient. Because I think there happen a change in the opinions 8 SAGE Open of children in both half-day and full-day practices. Of course, s/ Having observed and analyzed the enacted curriculum in he is not expected to fully adopt that field of science at once, but terms of two curriculum domains, the intended (written) at least the child raised an awareness towards science. curriculum were revisited, reformed, changed, or updated Therefore, I think that either the full or the half-day period is around the following findings. The all learning objectives enough.” (aims or goals) were categorized under three domains of Bloom’s taxonomy: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. (P5): “In fact, when our program first started, during a couple All of them were re-stated by omitting some verbs, such as of years we made it as one-week camps and the children enjoyed “know, understand” as it was not a behavioral and measur- these one-week camps very much. Therefore, half-day programs able. Then the statements of learning objectives were are not currently considered sufficient.” uttered in the concrete expressions using the words, such as “recognize, distinguish, and explain etc.” For instance, The last and the “8” theme; there were two different views “distinguishes whether a species is insect or not” instead of on whether the in-class activities could be enacted as “knows whether a species is insect or not”; “list the name of intended. The science educators, who thought the in-class insects” instead of “has basic knowledge of insect names.” activities were implemented as designed, have attributed the In other words, this approach to “learning objectives” following reasons: the infrastructure of their curriculum; pre- involved the expression of science curriculum “measurable instruction preparations, and previous experiences. The sci- objectives,” “understandable to children and science educa- ence educators, who thought those were not implemented as tors.” By implementing this change process so as to pro- designed, have pointed the followings: The shorten duration duce measurable objective, the participating children in of curriculum and the impractical learning environment for science curriculum would be better equipped to meet the children to express themselves. future science skills. Moreover, the learning objectives available in the “enacted curriculum,” but not in the (P5): “Not fully implemented. Currently, with half-day “intended” were added to the intended curriculum. Contrary, programs, only the introduction of the program is done. In other the learning objectives not available in the “enacted cur- words, a very in-depth activity cannot be done. For example, if we have 7 workshops, we can only implement one or two. We are riculum,” but in the “intended” were omitted to the intended unable to implement all workshops for economic reasons.” curriculum or vice versa. There is a basics for the learning objectives in a curricu- (P3): “Especially when you have to use the indoor area, the lum. That is, the learning objectives are aimed for the stu- area is very small and the lack of an image that children can feel dent, but not for teachers. In this mentally, the learning completely comfortable is a negative effect. It is a disadvantage objective statements aimed for the teachers in the science that the venue where the activities are implemented visually curriculum, for examples “provides children a chance to resembles to the classroom.” question life” or “raise awareness about ways to lead a good and beautiful life” were converted to the learning objective (P9): “Since the activities are held at AUKO, the venue, statements aimed for students, for examples “explains the infrastructure, telescope, tools and equipment are suitable for ways to lead a good and beautiful life by questioning life.” the program. Together with our experienced practitioners, the Other basics for the learning objectives are “one action verb activities can be implemented as designed.” per learning objective.” Accordingly, the outcome statements in the science curriculum were re-stated, for instance “defines The Extent of Congruence Between the Intended, important concepts related to earthquake and explains the Enacted, and Observed Curriculum difference between the concepts of magnitude and intensity.” This statement consists of two actions in one statement. In The results of this division were constructed to describe the turn, this statement was re-arranged by omitting the conjunc- big picture of the intended, enacted, and observed science tion “and” and putting a full stop to abide by the scientific curricula. Under this rationale, the results were obtained rules for the learning objectives. from two different documentary sources: the written The findings regarding the domains of learning activities (intended) science curriculum on paper developed by the sci- were collected by the same way in the learning objectives. ence educators and the recorded (enacted) science curricu- Having observed and analyzed the enacted curriculum in lum within classroom. Firstly, the researchers have analyzed terms of learning activities, the intended (written) curriculum the written documents of the intended science curriculum in were revisited, reformed, changed, or updated around the terms of four curriculum domains (aims/learning objectives following findings. The researchers tried to find a strong and learning activities only). Then the researchers observed relationship between the learning objective and learning and recorded the enactment process of curricula. Then, all activities. For this purpose, the learning activities available video-records were transcribed verbatim into a written for- in the “enacted curriculum,” but not in the “intended” were mat in order to compare between the intended, enacted, and added to the intended curriculum. In contrast, the learning observed curriculum and to yield a scientific evidence for the activities not available in the “enacted curriculum,” but in revision, change, or updates of the science curricula. Aral et al. 9 the “intended” were omitted to the intended curriculum or Habig et al. (2020) states informal science education pro- vice versa. grams fosters persistence in STEM education. Furthermore, Walan and Gericke (2021) has shown that staff being friendly and well-furnished settings were valued a strong and impor- Discussion tant indicator for children during the lectures at a Children’s Last five decades have witnessed the comprehensive growth University. This means that experiencing out-of-school of science education around the world as the science is activities in a university made the children participation and regarded as the major tenets of innovation and economic visit far more interesting and exciting. The second face liter- growth. Many universities have institutionally supported the ally interests in the negative impact on the attitudes toward spread of third mission of them with the help of “Children’s the science by assessing the how educational experiences University.” Recently, not only universities, but also non- influence these attitudes. Put in other words, for nearly half governmental organizations have implemented the extra- of participating children opinions this compromises a sub- curricular activities to the scientific thinking, skills, and stantial revision in the enacted science curricula because competencies. Several studies revealed that Children’s children were less conscientious in learning something new University. Accordingly, various extant studies on science and in new researches in science. Moreover, children have education have concentrate on how to deliver and put the sci- weak and infirm belief in being able transfer the learned ence in both curriculum and classrooms. However, there are things in extra-curricular activities to the daily life and in rarely researches on the evaluation of the science curriculum finding science as useful in everyday life. These present and its impact on the scientific skills and on the attitude of results also corroborate the previous results (Kurniawan children. Likewise, despite the science curricula being imple- et al., 2019) which put forward the connection between the mented from the 2009 onward in Ankara Children’s attitudes or interest of students toward science and being dili- University, they have not yet been evaluated so far. Hence, gent in learning about science. the aim of this study probes ways of which the science cur- Apprising the opinions of the participating children pro- ricula implemented in ACU was experienced by the children vided to discuss and evaluate the science curricula in a differ- and teachers who participate in the classes around the four ent point of view and experience. Based upon the insights of research questions and steps. the children, the results were literally divided into two broad The results are not only aligned with previous research in categories: (1) desiring experience and (2) undesiring experi- this related literature, but also provides new insights to the ence. The first category covers that the participating children experiences of a science teaching-based extra-curricular in found the science curricula enjoyable; experienced and ACU. There is a common tradition about extra-curricular learned something new about science; confronted with dif- activities as non-academic as being out-of-formal school ferent fields and sub-fields of science, and experienced the time and non-part of the formal curriculum. Different organi- science in a funny way. In its turn, children could learn zation (e.g., student societies), NGOs, and Children’s “doing the science” in stress-free atmosphere and tackling Universities provide a various range of extra-curricular the learning obstacles in science teaching regardless of their activities, but these activities do not involve a grading or age, grading, or personal traits. These results confirm credit as the participant is voluntary-based and optional Kairollovna et al. (2021), Duman and Peker- Ünal (2017), (Seow & Pan, 2014). Based upon this essence, the results of Timur and Kıncal (2010), and Martin (1997) results that the the participating children’s opinions about the science curri- science teaching activities should be process-oriented, have cula can be divided into two dichotomies: Positive and nega- plenty of room for funny, children-interested and curiosity tive. The main similarities to early studies (e.g., Buckley & activities, and should promote lasting learning of science and Lee, 2021; Tamayo et al., 2017; Yeniay Üsküplü, 2019) relate appreciation of science. Moreover, these studies valued to the first side of dichotomy. The first and positive face of it “actively participating in the learning environments; recog- are thought that the science curricula not only provide the nizing the enjoyable learning, and able to learn something opportunities for children to develop a positive attitude new in a short time.” The present results are in harmony with toward the science, but also to learning several new funda- Skukan et al. (2020) who claimed that educational games mental science concepts in a natural, playful, and entertain- and fun have been an effective tool for engaging students to ing way. The present results also confirm Shulruf et al.’s overcome the difficult tasks during the learning. Also, the (2008), Crall et al. (2013), Alabay et al. (2020), and King game in learning was an intellectual foster as well as knowl- et al.’s (2021) results that extra-curricular activities have a edge, attitudes, and action. The second category contains that positive effect on both student outcomes, achievements, ten- the participating children found the learning environment dency in scientific process skills, developing a positive atti- “not feel free to speak”; not found any opportunity to learn tude toward science. Extracurricular science education things new; not valued the learning activities humble and develops a higher level of epistemic curiosity (Schiefer et al., enjoyable. All in all, given that these results were appreci- 2020) and have the power to reduce declines in STEM career ated, there were not enough room for children to voice in the identity and science motivation (Stringer et al., 2020) and learning milieu. Some studies also had similar results. 10 SAGE Open Lecturing children in undesirable, boring, and non-children study by Güvenir (2018), who indicated that pre-school friendly learning environment and activities hinder their teachers could not implement the science curriculum activi- learning and desire for science in favor of science teaching ties in the pre-school by reason of the lack of time and edu- and learning. Kairollovna et al. (2021) assert that while expe- cational material. Additionally, these are in agreement with riencing the extracurricular activities in Children’s the results Dağlı (2014), who found already the lack of edu- University, children should not study haphazardly, con- cational materials and resources matters during the instruc- versely, pre-designed and prepared lectures should be in a tion. The last and but least cons were related to the absence playful way, which means both experiencing the basics of the of curriculum development standards in science curricula, science and have fun for being there. Finally, yet importantly, which makes the curriculum more likely being a teacher- Matusov (2018) and Hammer and van Zee (2006) argue that made curriculum based upon their experience, knowledge, if children’s inquiries, interests, puzzlements, excitement, and abilities. In support of the results, Tisza et al. (2020) and questions are kept out of classroom and school curricu- indicated that as being an important figure in children’s sci- lum, this instruction will not access to children and practice ence teaching, teachers are insufficient and unqualified in of science education will not create any room for children science teaching and curriculum development. Overall, the learning and thinking. results could be deduced that not only curriculum and cur- Over and above the results marked by several opinions of riculum making, but also instructional materials are worth- the participating children about their experiences during the while and beneficial for both university and public schooling. science curricula, there was required to understand and Because these factors are acted to assist children’s perfor- appraise the opinions of the science educators to elaborate mance of science experimentation and learning, but they dif- and yield the clear implications of the results. For the science fered in ways uttered by science educators’ and teachers’ educators there have been pros and cons of what the science expertise. curricula were taught in university. The first pros thing is that The last results of this study were constructed to describe the emergence of the idea of developing a science curriculum the extend of congruence between the intended, enacted, and was inspired by the international studies or researches, such observed science curricula. To this aim, the rule (learning as similar international project, lectures, or implemented cur- objectives aimed for the student, but not for teachers) was ricula. The second pros is that the motivation basis for meet- considered in the course of the evaluation process. Around ing the science with children and teaching them was this perspective, the two varying documents (the written, that practically to adjust the needs of the public schools in pursuit is to say, intended and recorded, that is to say, enacted) were of exchange of science knowledge in Turkey. These depicts analyzed in terms of four curriculum domains (aims/learning the reasons of the science educators’ conceptions and prac- objectives and learning activities only) to yield the adamant tices why the science teaching was seen in terms of raising a evidences and evaluative findings for the revision, change, or communal awareness about science and in turn disseminat- updates of the science curricula. The analyzing results range ing norm of publicity toward the science. The present results from the re-categorizing of the all objectives by Bloom’s tax- are line with the recent study by Yeniay Üsküplü (2019), who onomy and the re-visiting and re-stating of them for the sake found that the purpose and motivation of establishing chil- of the behavioral and measurable objectives. These results in dren’s universities were to develop the science skills in chil- agreement with Anwar and Bhutta (2014), who generates dren; to support children’s holistic development in classrooms that curriculum designers retain and enhance children’s atti- with and without walls, and increase university-community tude toward science by adopting more interactive teaching cooperation to realize a mission of the universities. The methods and more reasonable objectives for children. While results revealed that the broader goal of developing a science watching and evaluating the recorded lectures, the learning curriculum as extra-curricular activity was to promote the objectives available in the “enacted curriculum,” but not in dissemination of effective science teaching and legitimate the “intended” were added to the intended curriculum. science teaching materials for the sake of being a bridge Contrary, the learning objectives not available in the “enacted between university and community. Contrary, there were the curriculum,” but in the “intended” were omitted to the cons insights about the science curricula. The foremost cons intended curriculum or vice versa. Besides, the results for the were emerging some factors hindering and enabling to learning activities were collected by analyzing the enacted achieve the learning objectives, which was caused by the curriculum. In this respect, the learning activities available in insufficient educational material, lack of time, incompetency the “enacted curriculum,” but not in the “intended” were re- of science educators, and non-child-centered science curric- organized by the intended curriculum. What is more, the ulum even if the science curricula were organized within the observation results revealed that children-economically dis- walls of a university. This evidence could be explained an advantaged also had a window of opportunity to benefit from evaluative study (Gorard et al., 2017) in which the results such an extra-curricular activity under the roof of a univer- assert that the most exiting extra-curricular programs might sity. These children could learn lots of something new in a cost too much in terms of utilizing resources and staff time. supported and well-organized learning environment. These drawback and weakness results echo the findings of a Moreover, they have found a chance to experience the Aral et al. 11 science education with their peers on an heterotically, but Tekerci and Kandir (2017) mentioned that science education equal classroom atmosphere. These results validate Tamayo curricula/programs have a positive effect on children’s sci- et al. (2017), who claimed that the equal accessibility and ence performance and scientific process skills. teacher support for the participation of students are worth handling for the fundamental pillars for a fully inclusive edu- Conclusion and Implications cation. Also, UNESCO (2011), Pedder (2006), Blatchford et al. (2003) say that accessible and adaptable education sys- Overall, the results for this study have concluded that the tem and learning strategies will prevent and overcome the science education for children is a very useful practice for barriers and negative impact on quality, quantity of learning them. To benefit more from the science curriculum, the fre- opportunity for different children to participate in learning. quencies of the organization and implementation time of Depending upon these overall results, children’s universities them can be extended. Hereby, this will change the way of and their curricula should support the active participation perception that children think a university science curricu- and learning of all children from different socio-economic lum as a truantry or stealing from the schools. The learning background. Further, these organizations facilitate many objectives, subject-matter, learning activities, and evalua- benefits, especially for children with disadvantaged back- tion of the science curricula should be re-arranged and grounds. Correspondingly, it can be asserted that the science reformed in terms of the different learner profiles and dif- curricula helped children to learn something new and has ficulty levels. Thus, higher-level achievements and learn- been employed as a means of eliminating or minimizing the ing objectives might be included into the science curricula. inequalities among the participating children in terms of Additionally, monitoring and examining the science cur- their economically disadvantages. In order to overcome riculum of Ministry of National Education (MoNE) in imbalances in STEM participation and remain relevant in a Turkey should be benefit to yield a harmony between the multicultural society, informal STEM education organiza- curriculum of Children’s University and the counterpart of tions attempt to involve a greater cross section of their com- MoNE. Besides, a follow-up study can be carried out to munities (Garibay & Teasdale, 2019). In parallel with these determine to what extend science curriculum have an results, MacBeath and Waterhouse (2008) underlined the impact over children’s school and daily lives. need for an organization, such as the Children’s University, The children’s enquiries, individual interest, excitements, which equalize the whole children by melting their socio- and questions about science and life should be included to economic and family status in the so-called classroom. They the formal and non-formal science curriculum. In this way, argued this was the reason for need largely on the evidence teachers and science educators will access to the children and of the continuing gap between the highest and lowest achiev- their self-containment and create a room for children’s ing schools and between the highest and lowest achieving agency and critical thinking. pupils. Also, the results are overlapped by the similar studies While arranging the science extra-curricular activities, it in the literature. Results of these studies (Aral & Özdoğan is important to reckon children’s former experience and for- Özbal, 2017; Carol-Ann Burke, 2020; Marulcu et al., 2014; mal curriculum in order to provide the learning opportunities Overton, 2010; Öztürk & Bozkurt-Altan, 2019) have showed that are different from their formal teaching of science. Here, that many positive results could be emerged or employed for the classroom settings are learning environment are impor- children, especially for the ones with economically disad- tant to offer a different learning experience that definitely vantaged. These children can actively participate in the differs from the schooling. Additionally, the subjects and its learning process; learn a variety of things new and develop contents should be chosen the conducive features to surprise positive attitudes or point of view toward the science, broad- and trigger children and to elevate their cognitive levels of ening the perspective, and re-defined in each children’s com- science. Last but not least, while developing the science cur- munity context how university education in an informal ricula and extra-curricular activities, the science educators science education is realized and experienced. Therefore, create the wide-scope of hands-on experiments for the sake their scientific process and life skills are supported through- of children. out lifelong. Furthermore, these present results were coin- According to the results of this study, two implications are cided with MacBeath and Waterhouse (2008). They claim appreciated: (1) There is a close link between the extra-curric- that Children’s University could acknowledged to be suc- ular activities and children’ attitude toward science. In turn, cessful when achieving the following goals: enabling chil- children could develop a nucleus that has a positive or nega- dren’s participation in voluntary learning activities; meeting tive effect over their attitude toward science in parallel. (2) the educational needs of children by addressing their creativ- The prevalence of Children’s University in learning and ity; creating a local and national agenda; creating coopera- teaching the science supports children’s unanswered ques- tion between community-business environment and higher tions about the science. Thereby, the science educators in education; inspiring children, who cannot imagine the con- Children’s University need to encourage and engage the chil- cept of university. Last but not least, Morrison (2012), and dren in understanding and utilizing the science in the real life. 12 SAGE Open Ethical Consideration research and practıce (pp. 502–507). St. Kliment Ohridski University. The procedures for science research protocol were followed after Aral, N., Özdoğan Özbal, E., Gürsoy, F., Çetin Sultanoğlu, S., ethical clearance in advance. The permission (numbered with 137 Fındık, E., & Yurteri Tiryaki, A. (2019). Üniversite ve Toplum on April 13, 2017) to conduct the evaluation of the science curricula Bütünleşmesinde Örnek Bir Uygulama Bilim Üniversitede in Ankara Children’s University was ensured by Ankara University Çocuklarla Buluşuyor. Journal of Education for Life, 33(2), Ethical Committee. This study was carried out according to the 202–215. published guidelines for ethical research conduct of Ankara Ardaç, D., & Mugaloğlu, E. (2002). Bilimsel süreçlerin kazanımına University Ethical Committee. All the participants for this research yönelik bir program çalışması. V. Ulusal Fen ve Matematik gave consent for participation on a voluntary basis and the privacy Eğitimi Kongresi, ODTÜ. of all collected data was anonymized and aggregated. The study Arisoy, N. (2007). Examining 8th grade students’ perception of group in this research was designed equitably to avoid bias, and a learning environment of science classrooms in relation to copy of the research data was verified by participants (Cohen et al., motivational beliefs and attitudes (unpublished master thesis). 2007). The research findings were shared with the participants of Middle East Technical University. this research upon completing the project report. Ayvacı, H. Ş., & Yurt, Ö. (2016). Child and science education. Journal of Child and Civilization, 1(1), 15–28. Declaration of Conflicting Interests Azizoglu, N., & Cetin, G. (2009). The effect of learning style on The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect middle schools’ students’ motivation and attitudes towards sci- to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. ence, and the relationships among these variables. Kastamonu Education Journal, 17(1), 171–182. Başdağ, G. (2006). 2000 Yılı fen bilgisi dersi ve 2004 yılı fen ve Funding teknoloji dersi öğretim programlarının bilimsel süreç becer- The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support ileri yönünden karşılaştırılması [Unpublished master thesis]. for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The Gazi University, Turkey. author(s) received financial support for the research of this article as Blatchford, P., Bassett, P., Goldstein, H., & Martin, C. (2003). part of a project funded by Ankara University Scientific Research Are class size differences related to pupils’ educational prog- Project Office. 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Education, 10(2), 781–798.
SAGE Open – SAGE
Published: Jan 13, 2022
Keywords: Children’s University; science education; science curriculum; curriculum development; curriculum evaluation
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