In the last decade, Science Education has played a crucial role in the training of young students, supporting them in understanding the world around us, making them active citizens, responsible and capable of innovation in a knowledge-based society (Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council, 18 December 2006).
The purpose of the presented experimental research, carried out in a fifth class of a Primary School in Treviso (Italy), was to test the validity of a teaching approach based on the scientific method, in particular on the observation-comparative method (characteristic of Evolutionary Biology), in the teaching of Life Sciences. The research focused on the planning and realization of a learning unit for the study of the human musculoskeletal system, made by a theoretical initial phase followed by a practical approach, which involved the comparison of anatomical structures of three vertebrates: trout, chicken and pig.
The experimental work was preceded by a survey on didactics, aimed to identify methods and teaching practices adopted by teachers of Natural and Experimental Sciences of the Primary School, especially for the Biology and in particular for the musculoskeletal system. For example, from this preliminary investigation it was found that the teachers of the Primary School do not use tools such as the stereoscope for viewing biological material, despite they claim to take an active approach for the teaching of Science and they have the appropriate scientific instruments.
The results have shown that despite the traditional teaching proposes the dissection of foot from chicken, an animal belonging to the class of birds, pig is the most suitable for the specific practical experimental teaching, because is a mammal and thus is more similar to human from the morphological point of view, as well as the phylogenetic relationships. Active teaching and direct observation of animal structures reinforced the concepts theoretically exposed. It was also confirmed the high teaching potential of the integration of macroscopic and microscopic observations.
The observational-comparative method is a key component for the study of the Biology; for this reason all the topics linked to the study of the human body can be addressed through the use of this active methodology. This kind of approach can motivate students, making them active participants in their own learning.
The most innovative aspect of the proposed experimental program is the comparison of the musculoskeletal system in three selected vertebrates. Although the Italian Guidelines for the Curriculum in the Primary School emphasize the importance of scientific comparison between animals and human, with the objective of learning at the end of the fifth class to continue the study of the functions of organisms and compare the reproduction of human, animals and plant, it is also true that the comparison should be also made between animals that do not include human, in particular for the systems important from the physiological point of view.