Research shows that science subjects are considered less popular among elementary school students, and their popularity even further decreases with age. There are several reasons for this. It has been observed that students should encounter scientific topics that are more interesting and appealing to them. This is also stated in the curriculum. Exploring and researching scientific topics in the classroom should be done experientially through various lifelike activities. The popularity of science is closely related to the selection of the topics. The purpose of this master's thesis was to explore the matter in more detail and determine which interesting topics, not included in the curriculum, particularly interest fifth graders. The aim was to introduce these topics into the classroom of a selected group of students and thereby contribute positively to improving their level of situational interest and internal motivation. We were also interested in whether there are significant differences between male and female students in the choice of specific topics. In addition, we wanted to examine if the level of situational interest in introducing elective scientific topics and students' academic performance in science are related, as well as whether the level of situational interest in science and their academic performance in science are related.
The research was conducted in two parts during the school year 2022/23. In the first part, a sample of 400 fifth graders from selected urban and rural Slovenian primary schools were included. The students completed a questionnaire entitled “Students’ Interests in the Scientific Topics Outside of the School Frames”. In the second part, a selected class of 23 students was included in the sample. Based on their questionnaire responses, we found out that they were most interested in the content on bioluminescence and expressed a desire to learn about this topic in the school. We prepared and conducted two lessons on the topic of bioluminescence. After the implementation, the students completed a prepared questionnaire to evaluate their situational interest and internal motivation after the lessons. The students also took a knowledge test to measure their progress in their knowledge of to the chosen topics.
The general results show that the fifth graders are interested in science. They are particularly attracted to topics on bioluminescence and astronomy. They expressed a desire to learn about both of the selected topics in school as well. With empirical testing we showed that there are statistically significant differences between boys and girls in the selection of specific interesting topics. Furthermore, for certain topics, there is a statistically significant negligible positive correlation between the level of interest in introducing elective topics in science classes and students' academic performance in science. However, there is also a statistically significant weak positive correlation between the level of interest in science and students' academic performance in science. The introduction of interesting content on bioluminescence was found to positively affect students' internal motivation and situational interest in science. They also demonstrated progress in knowledge of the chosen elective topics.
With this master's thesis, we aimed to demonstrate that by thoughtfully selecting interesting topics and introducing them it into the curriculum by exploration-based learning, we can positively contribute to students' interest in science. The research findings provide primary school teachers with insights into students' interest in science and which topics they prefer the most. The implementation of a lesson on bioluminescence serves as a genuine example of good practice in introducing interesting topics into the science classroom.