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I am a pre-service teacher and still learning the ropes of how to teach science to elementary students. I am curious as to how other science teachers, during their pre-service years, approached creating a classroom that promotes a meaningful learning environment.
55 Activity Points
I love gardening. My first year of teaching, I had a center in my classroom with a fluorescent light hanging from a stand on a table. I had potting soil and seeds under the table. I placed a stack of newspaper with illustrated directions on how to fold the paper to make a planting pot. We even learned on the first day how to fold the paper and we discussed why following directions is important. During that year my students learned how to grow plants with seeds, plant cuttings, leftovers from the cafeteria, etc. They also learned that they had to be consistent and committed in order for their plants to thrive. We recorded, made drawings, and measured what we grew in a journal. We learned that peanuts grow under the ground. One little girl told me she thought she could make them grow on top of the ground. I went to the local feed store and bought peanuts for her experiment. As the plant grew, she would dig up on side to examine the roots for the legumes. Once peanuts appeared, she would dig them up and put them on top of the dirt. After a few days they would be buried under the soil. That's how we discovered tropisms.
Find something you are passionate about, be willing to be a learner as well and not the expert, and when a student wants to find out something that intrigues them, allow them to do so if it is in your power.
You can't do it all, but you can do a few things at a time. Each year add something new to your content knowledge. Many times, it is the children that will inspire you.
Another helpful idea, find out what the parents, grandparents, or other family members do for a living. They may be able to be an expert that can come to class to share with the students and give them an enriching experience you would otherwise not be able to provide.
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I am also a pre-service teacher and I am curious as well. However, most science classes I have observed have students watching videos and completing worksheets on the information in the video. So while yes, observing teachers is important, I have found little inspiration from doing so. I believe science is incredibly important to foster curiosity in children and I believe it is my duty as a teacher to help students in that regard. I have found that finding the student's interests and building on that helps create a meaningful learning environment. If they are engaged in something they are curious about, the learning will be meaningful. I hope this helps! Best of luck to you!
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I am responding to Ashley Gonzalez. I agree with you that there is very little "science" happening when the content is being taught predominantly with videos and worksheets. I do use video clips rarely, however, showing time-lapse video of germination or pollination is not something I can easily replicate in class. Perhaps you need to ask around and find out who does actual science labs either in your current school or one in the district. Don't hesitate to move up to middle school if need be. I promise you there are some real science teachers out there that are really doing science!
What seems to work best is an approach based on exploration, not memorizing a list of facts. And the exploration approach is more like what real scientists do. That's why I've been recommending the Phenomenon-Based Learning books sold by NSTA Press. The elementary version is targeted at grades 3-5, but many of the activities can be used at lower levels. Here’s a link to it:
[color=#000000][size=3][font=HelveticaNeue, 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, 'Lucida Grande', sans-serif][size=1][font=Verdana, sans-serif]
[/font][/size]You can see a free chapter: Go to that link and scroll down, under “Details,” you can see a link to read a sample chapter (on electricity). And if you click on that link, you get not only the sample chapter, but also the table of contents and the Introduction. The Introduction is very informative in describing how to present the activities in ways that will be both fun and educational for all types of students, along with suggestions for methods of assessment. [/font][/size][/color]
There are kits of materials designed to go with the book that are sold by Arbor Scientific. You can see them here:
The kits are expensive, but they give you enough materials for dozens of activities and would be a great investment for any school, even without the books.
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I am also a pre-service teacher and one of the things that I do, and not just for science is observing the outclass teachers. One of the outclasses that my students go to is the science lab, and I have been in there quite a few times to observe. It helps because you learn so many new things and so many strategies that you can utilize when you become a teacher. I have also talked with the science teacher many times and she shares her ideas with me and I also ask her any questions that I have. I hope this helps.
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I totally agree that you should go visit other teachers. Even if they are in a different grade. Most activities/experiments can be modified to fit the grade you teach.
I am also a pre-service teacher, and really liked your suggestions for new teachers teaching elementary science. I agree that it is important to find something we are passionate about, and use it to create activities that will inform our students' thinking. Adding content knowledge every year also sounds like a great recommendation, and I certainly plan on doing so. And as you mentioned, I'm sure the students themselves will inspire me through their comments and questions. I believe that content proficiency is a major contributing factor to any teacher's effectiveness.
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I am currently a student taking a class related to how to teach science and I have to say all these responses are making me feel more comfortable around the classroom. I attended a private school where science was mostly taught through textbooks and worksheets so I never really experienced any hands on activities or experiments, I think it's important to have the students practices hands on activities just to spark some creativity and thinking in their day.
Best of luck and thank you for all the tips!
350 Activity Points
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