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Above Image: Students making connections during a group activity © asiseeit , iStockphoto.com

Definition: The skill of Making Connections involves the process of connecting prior knowledge to new knowledge and experiences. This process allows students to relate what they read, see, do and experience to themselves, to the world around them and/or to other things they have read, seen or experienced previously.

Making connections is important because…

  • it enables students to build on their prior experiences to further construct knowledge and make meaning of the world around them
  • it allows for the development of deeper understanding of concepts, skills and the nature of science and technology
  • it promotes understanding of the relationships between science and technology and the social and environmental contexts of science and technology
  • it is interconnected with skills such as questioning, predicting, reflecting, and evaluating.

Teaching and Learning Making Connections:

Students

Educators

Make connections between prior experiences and new experiences (self-to-self connections)

Prompt students to explicitly make connections between new learning and prior experiences (e.g., “Does this remind you of something you’ve seen or done before?”, etc.)

Make connections between new experiences and prior knowledge prior to explorations or problem solving challenges

Connecting to prior knowledge and experience before exploring or solving problems helps students to make predictions and develop tentative solutions. Prompt students to connect prior knowledge to predictions (e.g., Ask students what they know about seeds and/or the needs of living things before they conduct the Tomatosphere™ Seed Investigation, etc.).

Make connections between new experiences and prior knowledge during explorations or problem solving challenges

Connections made during explorations help students to make more insightful observations as well as providing inspiration for solutions to problems. Prompt students to refer to prior knowledge and experiences while conducting investigations (e.g., “Have you seen that happen before?”, etc.)

Make connections between new experiences and prior knowledge after explorations or problem solving challenges

Making connections after explorations helps students to reflect and evaluate. Prompt students to compare results of explorations and problem-solving challenges with previous explorations or challenges.

Make connections between explorations and materials read or viewed

Connect what happens in explorations to media such as books, articles and videos (e.g., connecting bean seed growth to Jack and the Beanstalk, or connecting a video of an astronaut eating space grown lettuce on the International Space Station to developments in plant research in space, etc.).

See Video resources and the Milestones in Space Plant Research Timeline.

Make connections between explorations and the larger world

Demonstrate to students that scientific research and technological problem-solving is always taking place to solve real world problems (e.g., alert students to new discoveries in science and technology, discuss real-world science and technology challenges and research efforts taking place in science and technology, etc.).

Provide opportunities for students to make connections to events and phenomena using models (e.g., growing seeds in sand to understand how plants grow in the desert; growing tomato seeds that have been to space to appreciate the role of research in advancing human efforts to explore space, etc.).

Make connections between what occurs inside and outside of school (home-school connection)

Encourage students to share their learning with their families and their experiences at home with their classmates. (e.g., Ask students about their gardens at home; have students share their Tomatosphere™ experiences with their families at a school open house; let students take home the Tomatosphere™ plants they have germinated and grown in school, etc.).

Make connections between scientific principles and scientific phenomena while engaging in inquiry and/or technological problem solving challenges.

Help students to “notice and name” scientific principals and scientific phenomena they observe or experience (e.g., “When I look at how your bean seed is growing, it makes me think of...” or “remember when we were at the park and we saw the apple trees and lots of bees near the flowers? This…..makes me think of that because…”, or “we talked about the things that humans need to live and grow. I wonder what these tomato seeds need. Will it be the same or different from what we need? How do you know that…?”; or “given what we know about the soil components on Earth, how could we improve a Mars soil simulant to support the growth of tomato plants?, etc.).

Follow-up these conversations with more explicit teaching based on what you see and hear in these conversations, which might happen with the whole class or small groups or individuals, depending on the identified needs. (e.g., when using tools for technological problem solving tasks, make connections to simple machines and forces; or, when students observe plants bending towards light, ask students why this is happening and make the connection to the concept of tropisms in plants (See Plant Tropisms backgrounder).

Make connections between the processes of science employed and the nature of science understandings that are relevant to inquiry explorations and/or technological problem solving challenges.

Show students that doing science involves processes and methods that have evolved and become established over time in order to advance understanding (e.g., remind students that they are doing science, as real scientists do, by engaging in inquiry; help students understand and attend to the accepted processes of science and technology, with consideration of their ability and stage of development; introduce the historical origins and innovators of science and technology processes and methods; alert students to the nature of science as they engage in inquiry).

See Processes of Science and Nature of Science sections. Look for NOS Alerts in Tomatosphere™ inquiry learning resources.

See Seeds of Knowledge and Making Connections Organizer Learning Strategies.

Adapted from IdeaPark by Let’s Talk Science.