Elementary Science

Teaching Science

Do you feel prepared to teach science to students? If not, explain why.

Sarah Alonso
Sarah Alonso
5710 Activity Points

My mother was a middle school science teacher for many many years; therefore, I had much exposure to science instruction, in many family and personal activities throughout my life. Anywhere we would go, she always pointed out the scientific concept that was being demonstrated before our eyes. However, I think I grew tired of this, and I began to gain interest in other subjects. Fast-forward my life, and I majored in Economics and earned a master's degree in library science. During my graduate school pursuits, I enjoyed reading many of the nonfiction texts, particularly about science! Haha! I was also asked by my principal to leave the library and go back into the classroom to teach 5th grade science, and I gladly and excitedly accepted! It was fate! Science came back around in my life! I do enjoy teaching science because kids get so excited about it, and I love telling stories of my adventures and "family field trips," and the students are enthralled! No matter what you teach, show enthusiasm, and it will reflect in your students' attitudes toward that subject as well.

Julie Wylie
Julie Wylie
595 Activity Points

Hi Sarah,
I do not feel as prepared as I should be to teach science. I also feel that I put science on the back burner to reading and math. If I don't get to it everyday, then ok I don't get to it. I don't like that.
Rebekah

Rebekah Smith
Rebekah Smith
4345 Activity Points

I feel very comfortable teaching science since I have been doing it for over 40 years and I grew up loving science and had parental support in that area. But many teachers are not brought up with a love of science or did not get much exposure to it in elementary school, so they are uncomfortable teaching science. Every teacher has an interest that is personal to them and that is probably what they teach best.

Betty Paulsell
Betty Paulsell
48540 Activity Points

Hi Sarah,

Great question! Like Betty, I was very lucky to grow up in a house where my parents nurtured my love of science. For me, my first love was stargazing, but over the years that branched into investigating other areas of science. Between summertime adventures to National Parks and my public library, I was able to learn quite a bit about science while growing up.

Generally I do feel pretty well prepared to teach science, but there are definitely times when I struggle to teach difficult concepts to elementary level kids. There are several places I turn when I'm struggling with a concept. These forums are a great wealth of information. It's fantastic to have other teachers give you ideas for teaching a large variety of science lessons. I've also found that using the advanced search tool on the Learning Center website. A few months ago, I bought a book from the NSTA Science Store called Hard to Teach Science Concepts. It is full of great ideas to teaching elementary level students about difficult science concepts.

Maureen Stover
Maureen Stover
40810 Activity Points

This is a very interesting question to ask. With being an up and coming teacher, and finally taking classes for teaching science I can honestly say that i'm not quit ready to teach science but I am on the right track to feeling confident in this area of teaching. I have always felt as though science was a topic I was interested in but once I began testing my actual knowledge about science topics I realized that I do not have that strong of a lot of content knowledge on science information. Finding NSTA has been a real life saver and eye opener. I may not be strong in every area of science but NSTA offers so many resources and opportunities to improve my understanding of science. I may not be confident in jumping into a full on science classroom at this very moment, but I am confident that with the knowledge and resources I do have will help me to teach in this area.

Heather Powell
Heather Powell
1980 Activity Points

Heather,

You are definitely on the right track and NSTA is the place to begin. I also want to let you know that it took me about 15-17 years of teaching before I realized that I needed a deepepr undertanding of science myself if I was going to help my students understand. I went back and got a 2nd M. Ed in Science Education and now almost 10 years later I am still learning. I am still using SciPacks to help me improve as i work with other teachers.

Kathy

Kathy Renfrew
Kathy Renfrew
33435 Activity Points

Thank you Kathy,
It's very motivating to know and hear that others are still learning even after years of being an actual teacher. I will use these resources for as long as I can and remember that it's fine to brush up on different topics that may not be my strong point. Good luck with your future teaching indevars. Thanks again for the words of wisdom. It gives me more confidence in my furture teaching experiences.
Heather

Heather Powell
Heather Powell
1980 Activity Points

Hi Sarah,

This is my second year teaching and I can honestly say that I am not ready to teach science. As an elementary teacher, you're thrown in to the pits and expect to teach all the general subjects. I noticed that most teachers do not often teach science. It may be a once a week thing or whenever they can fit in their schedules, with Math and Language Arts as well as testing as top priority. I used to teach Science once a week and moved up to teaching twice a week as well as implementing it with other subjects such as Math and Language Arts.

I am still new at all of this - establishing my expectations, knowing the benchmarks, and understanding and teaching the concepts. Thankfully this NSTA Learning Center provides an abundant amount of resources and information to better understand the concepts. With what I have learned thus far and the resources that I have explored from this NSTA Learning Center has given me confidence in teaching my students. I may not be ready to teach Science completely, but I know it is a learning experience and I feel that I am progressing as a teacher.

Veralyn Ulep
Veralyn Ulep
1010 Activity Points

Veralyn and other soon to be teachers,

I also agree that the Learning Center provides teachers with an amazing set of resources. I too very felt very unprepared to teach science, but unlike you, I did not have a learning center to support me.

I was wondering if there was any one area of science that you would like this community of learners to discuss, provide resources, instructional strategies, whatever...

what are your thoughts?

Kathy

Kathy Renfrew
Kathy Renfrew
33435 Activity Points

Veralyn, other new and soon to be teachers,

I also agree that the Learning Center provides teachers with an amazing set of resources. I too very felt very unprepared to teach science, but unlike you, I did not have a learning center to support me.

I was wondering if there was any one area of science that you would like this community of learners to discuss, provide resources, instructional strategies, whatever...

What are your thoughts?

Kathy

Kathy Renfrew
Kathy Renfrew
33435 Activity Points

Even with a bachelor’s in science, I was not prepared to teach science to young children until I had several years of experience. New teachers will feel their lack of preparation but they will get there! I use the NSTA email lists and the Learning Center, and of course, I'm learning every day from the children and other teachers.

A resource that can help teachers to understand the underpinnings of science is the Understanding Science site, a project of the University of California Museum of Paleontology and collaborators. The glossary is very useful and so is the Understanding Science 101 section.

Peggy Ashbrook
Margaret Ashbrook
6380 Activity Points

I do not feel that comfortable because it is a subject that i am not very familiar with.The more experience i gain the more comfortable i will feel.

Matt Clark
Matt Clark
765 Activity Points

I do not feel that comfortable because it is a subject that i am not very familiar with.The more experience i gain the more comfortable i will feel.

Matt Clark
Matt Clark
765 Activity Points

I am also an up and coming teacher and science is one of the subjects I am concerned to teach. I have recently been enrolled in science course for the first time in quite some time and it has been a reminder of what I don’t know, more so than what I do know. Although I feel that I am learning a lot through this website and the assignments my instructor has assigned. A lot of the articles and sources on this site have been very beneficial to me. I can defiantly see myself using information obtained through the learning center in my own future classroom someday.

Nicole White

Nicole White
Nicole White
640 Activity Points

Hello Sarah Alonso,I don't feel confidant to teach science to my students in the future!!!! I have an science teacher she okay, but when it came to the class I feel she let us down by not doing more project just a lot of lesson plans and not really teaching us how to do different science projects and now I feel when it is my time to teach a class my wont be on point! What to do!!!!!!

Marie Samba
Marie Samba
3635 Activity Points

That's a good question! I'm currently a student at FIU in Miami, Florida. I will be teaching at the elementary level. I'm just completing a science course, and I'm so much better prepared now. I've learned how to conduct an inquiry lesson. I'm now aware of the 5 E's of science inquiry and feel well prepared to teach my "future" students. At this time, my biggest hurdle will be content knowledge. Unfortunately, I had not had much science instruction throughout my education, not to mention that it's been quite a long time and simply put, difficult to remember what I had been taught. Now,through this incredible website I have access to a seemingly endless supply of resources! The Scipacks are very thorough. I've completed one so far (on Rocks), and it has not only refreshed my memory, but has clarified some misconceptions that I had once had. Hmmm...I wonder what other misconceptions of mine will be dispelled? I'm looking forward to finding out! I'll be taking advantage of the Science Objects as well not to mention the journal articles, book chapters, etc. This list goes on.

Carolyn Scornavacca
Carolyn Scornavacca
4115 Activity Points

I am an exchange student from Australia, currently taking a science course at FIU. I can say that before taking this course I was not confident at all in teaching science, I don't have a science background and couldn't remember much of what I did learn in high school. After taking this course I can say I have learned so much, my confidence has grown and I can definitely see myself teaching effective inquiry based science lessons in the future. The NSTA learning center has been a very helpful resource. The SciPack I completed was my favourite resource, I did the one on Rocks and it helped my so much with content knowledge to be able to create and teach an inquiry lesson with students at my field school.

Jess

Jessica Stojanovski
Jessica Stojanovski
3000 Activity Points

Taking into consideration, that I am just completing a Teaching Elementary Science course, I feel a lot more comfortable teaching the subject of science to elementary students. This course has taught me a lot of things in regards to teaching science. I am now more aware of how to go about teaching lesson plans in science by using more inquiry-based learning strategies, along with hands-on exploring activities. The more resources I get from this class and this learning center, then the more prepared and/or confident I will be for actually teaching elementary science.

Jermaine Vassell
Jermaine Vans sell
2885 Activity Points

I never felt comfortable with science ever since I was an elementary student myself. This makes me feel scared when thinking of teaching other young students about a subject I am not familiar with. After taking SCE 4310 at Florida International University, I now feel confident with all the knowledge I have acquired from this class. I learned different activities and lessons to do with the students along with inquiry to keep the students questioning and enhance their knowledge. I can not wait until I am able to use this knowledge within my future class and with my future students.

Katixa Sotil
Katixa Sotil
2170 Activity Points

Prior to taking SCE 4310 at FIU, I didn't feel adequately prepared to instruct a Science lesson. But after much personal research, and after reviewing many of the useful resources available on this website, I feel that I can successfully teach a Science lesson and be very effective at it. In learning how to apply inquiry to my lesson(s), I find comfort in knowing that I will engage my student's minds and guide them towards reaching conclussions based on guided questions that they will research and investigate.

Luis Hernandez
Luis Hernandez
3645 Activity Points

I do feel prepared to teach elementary science. I am currently taking the course "Teaching Elementary Science" in FIU and I definitely feel that this class has taught me and prepared me well to teach science to elementary school students. I know how to make inquiry lessons so that students can have a better learning experience and learn while they explore with only my guidance. I feel this is a great way of teaching science and I would have not learned to do this if it was not for my class. I also know how important it is for students to be engaged in group activities. Since I had the opportunity to create an inquiry lesson and teach it to my field placement class, I also feel more prepared for when I have my own class. Without having taken this class, I would not feel half as prepared as I do now.

Monica Dousdebes
Monica Dousdebes
3485 Activity Points

Wow! I am so happy that many of you feel better prepared to teach science after taking Teaching Elementary Science class from Florida international University. From reading the posts, I am assuming that one of your assignments was using one of the SciPacks

If you had one piece of advice for teachers of future teachers, what would that be? What can science/science methods professors learn from you?

Kathy

Kathy Renfrew
Kathy Renfrew
33435 Activity Points

I feel comfortable teaching science through my Elementary School Program but I had to rely on my school to prepare me for teaching science, I wouldn't feel as comfortable as I currently do. I know that there is so much more I could be doing, and through reading the forums there are so many great resources and ideas such as books and websites. For me, I find the biggest problem teaching science in the classroom is the amount of time. So much time is used for working with ELL or struggling students that there is hardly any time and we literally have to squeeze in the time.

Courtney Fullmer
Courtney Fullmer
340 Activity Points

Courtney,

You hae identified one of the biggest problems elementary teachers face , the time. I am wondering, given the amount of time you are describing, what does science instruction look like? Can you share an example?

Kathy

Kathy Renfrew
Kathy Renfrew
33435 Activity Points

Yes, and no. I think with me it really depends on the content and topic. :) I do really enjoy learning new things though, so I am very excited about the NGSS!!

Heather Janes
Heather Janes
1600 Activity Points

Heather
Good for you. As a seasoned teacher I get bored if I have to do the same thing over and over again. So I mix things up to make it interesting for both me and the students. I have followed that plan for the 30 plus years I have taught and it never failed me.
Good luck and keep that positive attitude.
Adah

Adah Stock
Adah Stock
101470 Activity Points

I'm not as comfortable as I should be teaching science because this past school year, so much emphasis was placed on ELA and Math in my school district. I had to "squeeze in" time to teach Science. I didn't get to devote as much time as I wanted to, however time was used wisely. We received new science books which integrated the other subjects as well as the science kits we use, and was aligned with the curriculum. But, I would still like allotted time to teach science and not feel that I have to squeeze it in or rush through lessons.

Yvette Stevens
Yvette Stevens
110 Activity Points

I really appreciate the honesty everyone has shown in their responses. When I began teaching 22 years ago, I had 1 Science class under my belt while getting my Masters in Teaching. We had tons of classes on literacy and math, but minimal in terms of Science. I entered my first classroom scared to death, but discovered learning Science alongside my students was a wonderful experience.

We had Science books that were way too hard for my 6th graders to understand, but the photos were pretty! The labs in the book were not bad, so as a group we set off on a learning adventure. This was long before the internet was what it is today, so we all got involved in books, mostly Science texts that had been samples from representatives. We did a lot of concept mapping, vocabulary defining and investigating.

At the end of the year, I asked the students what was the most memorable for the year? Hands down it was the fact I was vulnerable with my students and taught them how to learn. By not being the expert, they felt comfortable asking questions and making a plan to find their own answers. The world around us holds so many wonders – Science opens the door to wondering. Never be afraid to do what is hard, there is always a rainbow at the end of every storm when the sun shines through it. Jump off the deep end and enjoy every moment of learning.

Sandy Gady
Sandy Gady
42985 Activity Points

Thank you Sandy! I was so "lacking in science education and skills needed to teach elementary science" and I continued that way for about 15 years. I was NO EXPERT! Then I decided to do something about it. I became part of a cohort of elementary teachers and not only learned some science but also added some tools to aid in my science instruction. So after 3 years of going to school to learn science, which I shared with my students, although I was more confident and my science instruction definitely improved, I still NO EXPERT.

I think NGSS will put many elementary educators on a level playing field and provide opportunities for elementary educators to learn more together. We ALL need to work together to explore the intricacies and develop instruction to support the Next Generation Science Standards.

Kathy

Kathy Renfrew
Kathy Renfrew
33435 Activity Points

I agree with the people who have admitted that even though we might have studied science, and even (gulp) worked in science, that being and feeling prepared to teach it (or anything) does not necessarily follow from being an 'expert' in science. ;(

What has helped me to break out of my expert area is to think about how to map all of science to a fairly small matrix of 9 or 10 key concepts. I'm not in the USA, so Im not aware - is this a framework that you use n the standards ? We've just started with this idea in our new stds in Aus, where Im from.

Doing so can shrink it to a useable size sort of guide. It also makes it easier to see and to teach how all the concepts relate to each other, in different ways at different times, and to even use this idea of a limited number of interrelating key concepts as a main teaching tool. I think it has potential to teach real multidisciplinarity too, if that is the word, and therefore purposeful collaboration.

I think it might help students (and me) to also not get completely lost in all the possible detail, as interesting and useful as that is .

Im interested to see what kinds of case studies and tasks, and evaluations and assessments are used by others in classes to promote ss to approach problems from a key concepts and therefore multidiscipline lens/angle - How do we get ss to be asking what are the biology, the chemistry, the geological and the physical bits of the problem, and at all scales, micro and macro, time and energy and space ?

Also, is this worth doing, and starting at elementary ? Does it add ease and coherence for teachers teaching science outside the comfort zone (as its helped me) , or can it make it seem even harder ?

Jodie Green
Jodie Green
240 Activity Points

It really doesn't matter whether you feel comfortable teaching any subject. It is your own prep and understanding as a learner yourself that will guide you and your students to be good learners. The first time I had to teach physics I told the students that I hadn't studied physics for over 20 years. I told them that we would learn together. The kids loved it and we both learned a great deal.
Adah

Adah Stock
Adah Stock
101470 Activity Points

One thing school districts need to start to accept is that more time spend on ELA and Math, while squeezing out science and social studies, isn't going to benefit kids. In my district we noticed that our high school state assessment scores for science were dropping. After investigating the causes, we realized one huge factor was the lack of science experiences students were having at the elementary level. We were not forming a strong enough foundation for the later work. Last year, we revamped our elementary science program grades 3-5. We developed a science lab in each elementary school. Rewrote units to focus on "doing" science using the Science Practices from NGSS, and created mandatory science time that was not allowed to be used for anything but science. We still have a lot of work to do...the primary grades still do very little science...but we are at least moving.

One thing I have a hard time understanding is the unwillingness for integration of science and CCSS. Both were led by the same group with the idea that science, math and ELA would intertwined. Even Arne Duncan talks about the need for an integrated approach. It seems to me that there is a fear integration means less time spent on what the district values as important (or that what is tested), rather than a way of helping kids see the connectedness between the disciplines and the work.
Cheryl

Cheryl Aldrich
Cheryl Aldrich
935 Activity Points

Cheryl seems to hit the nail on the head with her comment about communities fearing time spent on science takes away from tested subjects such as ELA and math. We talk about educating parents about the importance of reading to their children, now it's time to discuss educating administrators and politicians about the importance of integrated instruction.

The ELA Common Core standards do address integration with math and social studies, but science gets short shrift. When we discuss the amount of time available for instruction, it's important to remember that teaching everything in isolation is time-consuming; teaching an integrated lesson where standards from math, science, ELA, and social studies can all be checked off is not only more efficient but also more engaging for students and teachers.

Erik Yates
Eric Yates
410 Activity Points

Thanks for taking on this topic. It is important that more districts become aware of how important it is to support science at the elementary level. Often students come to secondary, middle school, with no experience with partiicipating in science lessons and when they have that opportunity, they can not focus because they are so excited to have their hands on the materials and equipment. I am secondary focused but work with our elementary campuses to help bridge some of those gaps.

Yolanda

Yolanda Smith-Evans
Yolanda Smith-Evans
6425 Activity Points

We're typically smarter than our students aren't we? Every night we prove that we're not only a SME (subject matter expert), but you as the teacher are learning lessons outside of the subject. You're learning about your students and their learning styles. While a working as a reporter for a couple of television stations, I became a SME daily passing along what I had learned to my audience.

Scott Morton
Scott Morton
750 Activity Points

I do feel comfortable teaching science. I have been an elementary science teacher for 10 years spending time in third, fourth, and fifth grade. I also recently earned my science endorsement. Teaching all three subjects has given me the opportunity to have a broader understanding of what my third grade students need and where I need to direct the content that I teach.

Ashley Andrews
Ashley Andrews
100 Activity Points

Hello All,

I am wondering how you feel about the Next Generation Science Standards? They are so different from what we currently know. I think what I am going to do is to find a unit I already teach that somewhat aligns with the new standards and try to add one or more of the science and engineering practices where appropriate. I think this will be a good way to start. What do others think?

Kathy

Kathy Renfrew
Kathy Renfrew
33435 Activity Points

I went from a departmentalized Math and Language Arts environment to a self-contained classroom this year. Still the same school, but the powers that be wanted teachers to teach self-contained. So, I find myself teaching Science again after many, many years.
So far, I am treading water. The previous Science teacher ordered brand new books which I already feel are chalk and talk.
Don't misunderstand, I am very willing to teach the Science curriculum, but I am looking at this thick book with pages and pages of words and I am lost.
Any ideas?

Diane Block
Diane Block
30 Activity Points

Hi Diane,

I know how daunting it can be to move from a departmentalized system back into a self-contained classroom, but you are in the right place to find great ideas for teaching science! When I moved back into a self-containted classroom, one unexpected benefit for me was the ability to integrate lessons across curriculum areas. One of the best places to start is by using the NSTA Advanced Search tool. This search tool enables you to search by keyword, grade level, resource type, price, etc. It's fantastic!! Another great tool on this website are the forums. Many times you can find a forum on the topic you're interested in (you can search for the topics by typing the topic at the top of the forums that says "Find Topics and Users"). If you can't find an existing thread that meets your query, you can always start your own topic.

If you let me know the topics and grade level you'll be teaching this year, I'd be happy to share any science resources that you might find useful.

Maureen

Maureen Stover
Maureen Stover
40810 Activity Points

Heather, I completely agree with you about utilizing NSTA as a resource to build your science content knowledge. I also am pursuing my masters in elementary education and am currently in a class about teaching science at the elementary level. We were assigned to take the 3 PD Indexers, which was an eye opening task for me. I was completely taken about at how low my content knowledge was about specific areas in science. Afterwards, I scoured the NSTA website and look for various Scipacks that could help me learn this content. I was so pleased to see the amount of resources available. Websites/forums like NSTA make learning science easy and enjoyable. Now the next important lesson is to learn how to properly teach this information to children so that they are excited about science! Anyone have any good ideas>

Kaitlyn Quinn
Kaitlyn Quinn
1465 Activity Points

Hi Kaitlyn

Really happy to see you have utilized the PD Indexer and the Sci Packs.

Heather and others mentioned NGSS. This might be a a way for you to find approach NGSS and teaching concepts Here is the link for NGSS Web Seminars Past , Present and Future . You can find the archives of past ones in the collection area. The collections also contain journals and other resources pertinent to seminars topic

That said, I am including two that you might find of interest for elementary level students

Using the NGSS Practices in the Elementary Grades
http://learningcenter.nsta.org/products/symposia_seminars/NGSS/webseminar16.aspx
This web seminar took place on January 29, 2013, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. eastern standard time. The presenters were Heidi Schweingruber from the National Research Council, Deborah Smith from Penn State University, and Jessica Jeffries from State College Area School District. In this seminar the presenters talked about applying the scientific and engineering practices described in A Framework for K–12 Science Education in elementary-level classrooms.

Preparing for the Next Generation Science Standards—Developing and Using Models
http://learningcenter.nsta.org/products/symposia_seminars/NGSS/webseminar6.aspx

In this web seminar, Ms. Schwarz and Ms. Passmore talked about the second scientific and engineering practice contained in A Framework for K-12 Science Education: developing and using models. First, Ms. Schwarz defined scientific models and the process of scientific modeling. Next, Ms. Passmore explained how modeling works with the other practices. Ms. Schwarz provided an in-depth example of modeling in action in a 5th grade classroom, and Ms. Passmore shared a vignette showcasing how modeling works at the high school level

I have to tell you the web seminar on models was a fav of mine as it pointed to students engaging in 'collective sense making' which has become a 'teaching meme' for me

Let us know if this is useful for you Kaitlyn

Best, Arlene

Arlene Jurewicz-Leighton
Arlene Jurewicz Leighton
42020 Activity Points

I do not feel very comfortable teaching science without having a guide in front of me. I feel that I am fairly knowledgeable, but I don't have the answers for on the spot questions that some students might have.

Kaley Jones
Kaley Jones
4090 Activity Points

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