Elementary Science

Science in the Average Day

I know that now-a-days, the main focus in schools seems to be on math and reading skills so how are you supposed to incorporate enough of the other subjects into the remaining time? Do you have to divide it out day-by-day (some science on Monday, some social studies on another day, etc)? I don't remember doing a lot with science until 4th grade so from my perspective, it seems there isn't enough time allotted for teaching science. How do you make it work when there's such a push in favor of math and reading above all else?

Ashley Vogel
Ashley Vogel
2590 Activity Points

Thematic units are always a wonderful way to incoporate several subjects under the umbrella of one topic. The units do not have to be very long. I always find a way to use stories and books, fiction or non-fiction, as an introduction to the topic. Students can then write about the given topic. There can be a tie in with math, even if it's creating word problems that mention information or terms about the topic. Art is always a great extention of a thematic unit. Science and social studies do not have to be done in a specific time slot. In my Kindergarten classroom, any subject may be worked on at any time througout the day and chances are the topics will be thematic, worked on over a few days or a couple of weeks. Have fun.

Arleen Bourcier
Arleen Bourcier
1570 Activity Points

Ashley, The dilemma you mention has been part of the struggle in elementary science for a long time. The answer has always been integration but nobody has ever told us how to do it. I am hoping we can work together to figure it out so that all the subjects can be taught well, planning doesn't overwhelm the teacher and we hve ebough time for all parts of it. I am very excited about the Common Core, and the soon to be released Next Generation Science Standards. When we have 40+ states working together I am hoping we an share units, strategies for integration and much more. I would be interested in knowing what grade level you are teaching? We are currently working on a short focused research project ( CSS ELA 1W.7-8) with science as the context. Those standards are: 7. Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., explore a number of “how-to” books on a given topic and use them to write a sequence of instructions). 8. With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question. These standards are first grade standards. This short focused research project will give an opportunity for true integration. I will share more information about this very soon. We are working on a grade 1 and grade 4 project. KAthy

Kathy Renfrew
Kathy Renfrew
34175 Activity Points

Hi Ashley,

As a fellow elementary teacher, I know your struggle. Arleen's suggestion to use thematic units is an excellent one! I really like using thematic units for several reasons. First, by teaching my kids using a common theme over the course of a few days or weeks, we are able to really dig deep into concepts. Incorporating the theme across subjects helps my kids see the relationship of concepts in context of many areas of study. For instance, for elementary students, you can do a unit on the Little Engine that Could. Here's how it would fit into different subjects:
Reading/Lit: Read the book
Math: Count the trains, calculate the distance the train travels
Science: Forces and motions (push and pull), if you use in conjunction with a Thomas the Tank Engine activity you could also talk about magnetics
Character development: perseverance, working hard, accomplishing goals

As Kathy pointed out, with the Common Core and the draft NGSS, we have more opportunities to find cross-curricular ties that extend across subject areas. At first I was disappointed that science didn't get it's own section in the Common Core, but now that I've been able to use the science embedded into the ELA section, I'm pleased with how well my science related reading activities flow into my curriculum.

The NSTA Learning Center has a wealth of materials that help you integrate science into other. Using the Advanced Search tool you can find resources for specific topics. I've attached a few collections I've created with ideas for integrating science into other subject areas.

Maureen


Integrating Science and Math Collection
(10 items)
Society for College Science Teachers: The Importance of Mathematics in Biology Courses
     -Journal Article
Mathematics in the Biology Classroom: A Model of Interdisciplinary Education
     -Journal Article
A "Nature of Science" Discussion: Connecting Mathematics and Science
     -Journal Article

Using Literature to Teach Science Collection
(8 items)
Guided Literature Explorations
     -Journal Article
And the Winners Are… Award-Winning Science Books of 2008
     -Journal Article
Methods and Strategies: Literature Circles for Science
     -Journal Article

Writing in Science - elementary Collection
(7 items)
Writing Assignments in a Nonmajor Introductory Ecology Class
     -Journal Article

     -
Learning Logs: Writing to Learn, Reading to Assess
     -Journal Article

Maureen Stover
Maureen Stover
41030 Activity Points

Thank you for all of that! I'm actually a student pursuing my elementary certification. I'm going to start student teaching next year and I have a passion for science so I want to make sure that my students don't get the short end of the stick when it comes to that subject. I love hands-on activities and impromptu lessons. I'd love to take the kids out for nature walks and do demonstrations in the classroom when able but I don't know how feasible that will be. Last year I was volunteering in a kindergarten classroom and taught the kids how to make bread. That was a good opportunity to teach some life science (with the yeast) as well as topics of nutrition, measurements, etc. The kindergarten classroom seemed really flexible in our ability to take the time and do a lesson like that but I don't know how possible that would be in the grades.

Ashley Vogel
Ashley Vogel
2590 Activity Points

I try to do science in the classroom a few times a week. I tie in science to my reading block by doing non-fiction reading and teaching the non-fiction text features of the textbook and other passages. (leveled readers are great for this) I also have a dedicated science time once a week where we do some type of "lab" work or investigation. During library time, I have the students do research for a project. This way, I still cover all of the reading benchmarks and incorporate science into the curriculum.

Stephanie Taira
Stephanie Taira
720 Activity Points

I'm going to totally jump off tangent here but it's disheartening to me how science & social studies is always shoved to the back because of state tests. If a school is labeled restructuring, etc., the focus is all reading & math. I know of schools that teach only 1 hour per week of science because of their school's status. I understand the reasoning but it doesn't make me feel any better about how behind we are as a nation because we lost our ability to think critically. I have about 3 hours per week to teach science or social studies & I feel that's still not enough. I feel like I'm always rushing my lessons & I never get to do all the great lessons I want to. I have so many great resources & there's so much I want to teach my 5th graders but I just can't fit it in. Even with created units & pacing guides, I still feel that I'm not teaching science with the utmost quality. I don't know how to add more time to science & social studies without taking away time from our reading & math programs. It's frustrating for a science lover. Science incorporates reading & math. Social Studies incorporates non-fiction reading and writing. Why hasn't a company created a science & social studies program that incorporates the reading & math standards for each grade level? Especially now that we have common core standards. It's difficult for me to create cross curriculum units when we're having to use reading & math programs provided to us in our schools. I apologize for my venting but I love science & I feel that teaching science is extremely important. If anyone has any ideas, opinions, advice, anything, I would love to hear it.

Rochelle Pascual
Rochelle Pascual
780 Activity Points

Hi Rochelle, I think your frustrations mirror those of a lot of elementary school teachers. We have so much to get through in one day that there never seems to be enough time. I too wish there was a company that combined curriculums (either math/science, science/reading/writing, history/reading/writing). Hopefully with the core curriculum coming on board nationwide, curriculum developers will see the benefit to producing inter-curricular materials. In the mean time, integrating curricula falls on our shoulders. When I was trying to find a way to integrate subjects in my classroom, it initially seemed like a monumental task. What I ended up doing was writing each standard on a 3x5 index card (originally it was the FL Sunshine State Standards, now I'm working on the same project for the common core). Since math and reading were the priority subjects in our district, I first laid out all of the math and reading standard cards on my family room floor. Then I placed the social studies and science cards that fit with a math or reading standard with the appropriate card. Then I, looked to see if any of the reading cards fit with the math cards. Here's an example of what I mean: Let's say I have a reading standard to read folklore/tall tales. Here's how I would incorporate that standard with other subjects: Social Studies: pioneers, Oregon Trail, Lewis and Clark, geography of the West, etc Science: simple machines (wheel and axel on the the covered wagons) and weather (Pecos Bill) NSTA article [url=http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/4/ss06_029_08_36]Twisters, Tall Tales, and Teaching Science[/url] has great ideas for incorporating tall tales into science) Math: Determining distance, determining time to travel at a given rate After I determined which standards correlated with each other, I then decided what order I wanted to teach them in. My district had a pacing guide, so I used the pacing guide to help me with this part of the process. This type of planning did take me a long time, but I'm so glad that I did it. By taking the time to identify the standards that related to each other across subject areas, I was able to fit my science and social studies instruction into math and reading lessons. Hopefully that's helpful! If you have any questions, just let me know! Maureen

Maureen Stover
Maureen Stover
41030 Activity Points

Maureen,

WOW! I am so impressed by the work you have done trying to preserve time for science instruction. I do want to tell you about one curriculum that does integrate science and literacy. It is a quality program. The research was done by researchers at the Lawrence Hall of Science. It is called Seeds of Science roots of Literacy.Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading is a research-based curriculum that teaches essential science understandings while building a full range of literacy skills. It’s a next generation curriculum that provides the solid foundation our children need to achieve success in high school, college, and beyond.

I have a sample of the unit and some of the books. I will say I like what I have seen,
Seeds of Science

One caution I would put forward is I do not know how well it correlates to the Framework of Science Education or the soon to be released next public draft of the NGSS.

Kathy

Kathy Renfrew
Kathy Renfrew
34175 Activity Points

Hi Maureen, That sounds like an awesome idea! Definitely a fair share of work but I think it would be feasible, especially if we want to keep the students from missing out on a lot of valuable Science and Social Studies experience. I was actually going to ask about the whole integrating subjects idea but after reading your post, you seem to have a great strategy going! Integrating the subjects seems like the most reasonable solution to the problem at this point because Reading and Math are given prime placement in the day. If we're going to teach Science, it seems like we have to get creative with it, which works well because you're actually demonstrating applied Science in the process. Just like the little bread-making lesson I did with my Kindergarteners, I love a lesson that can hit multiple birds with one stone.

Ashley Vogel
Ashley Vogel
2590 Activity Points

Ashley, You are absolutely right! Hitting two birds with one stone is an excellent strategy! :) The other fantastic benefit of integrating subjects is that it enables our students to see the material they learn as inter-related, instead of independent blocks, of information. Instead of just reading, students realize they can read to learn information about history, geography, science, etc and in instead of just doing math, you can do math to figure out the answer to a problem like how fast you need to go on your skateboard to make a jump...suddenly learning becomes relevant and what they learn in each subject is reinforced as they learn about the same concept in a different subject. It's fantastic! :) Kathy, thanks so much for highlighting the Seeds of Science program. It is fantastic! It will be interesting to see how programs like these fit into the NGSS. Maureen

Maureen Stover
Maureen Stover
41030 Activity Points

These posts reflect such a wealth of knowledge! This is only my second year of teaching and I have not yet learned how to design really efficient thematic units like experienced teachers. At my school, I am a math specialist at grade 5, and my partner teacher teaches ELA. The focus is on math and language arts...not science! However, I am getting better about integrating math and science, but I admit I need a lot of help doing this. Some of the images and interactive videos provided by NSTA are very helpful as they incorporate two things that I'm teaching right now - angles in math, and angles in relation to the Sun, Moon, and Earth. I'll attach the PowerPoint that I'm using in my next Sun, Moon, and Earth lessons that also uses angles. It's not easy integrating subject areas, so I'm thankful for the resources that NSTA provides to new teachers like me.

Attachments

Joy Agard
Joy Agard
2190 Activity Points

I hear you. I also have a hard time integrating anything but language arts with science. I think as the students get older and calculations start getting involved it is easier but for myself in fifth grade it can be challenging. We cover the topics of energy, body systems and solar system which doesn't really have too much to incorporate into math. One year I incorporated converting distances from mile to km, etc. with the distance between the planets but that about as far as I got. Any suggestions would be great. Have a nice day everyone.

Michael Leslie
Michael Leslie
2110 Activity Points

Hi Michael,

It is a challenge to link math and science in elementary. Here are a few NSTA resources that might help you out:
Activities Linking Math and Science, 5-8
Stepping Up to Science and Math: Exploring Natural Connections
Science the Write Way
Once Upon a Life Science Book

In addition to these resources, you can find several articles and ebook chapters in the Learning Center that will help you find way to integrate science into other curricular areas.

Maureen

Maureen Stover
Maureen Stover
41030 Activity Points

This thread is so informative. I'm not yet at the point where I'm unable to set aside science instructional time, but I can see that looming ahead as the challenges to achieve adequate yearly progress on state assessment targets increase. The language arts integration is what works for me for science instruction, but I'm also able to integrate science with our state's general learner outcomes (life skills), and elements of health, and career and technology standards. I usually compact my instruction. (Units is what I do, in addition to others who have shared earlier.) I also try to identify connections in how the science topics and benchmark standards have direct impact on the students' lives and their future careers. We just had a lengthy discussion about how the need for math, engineering, computer programming, and game-console dexterity is what the Curiosity team needs to control the rover on Mars.

Lori Towata
Lori Towata
2805 Activity Points

I really like how you try to make the connections between science and jobs to get the students to think about there future. I also try to relate Science to the other subject usually writing which I think can get boring after doing it a few times. I will also take your idea of relating gaming to science, kids love games and thinking of ways the students can use their gaming skills to improve science.

Michael Leslie
Michael Leslie
2110 Activity Points

This is a very interesting thread and very informative. We can all relate to the challenges of "fitting" Science and Social Studies into our curriculum. I also find thematic units to be the most effective way of incorporating Sci/Soc. Studies into the school day. It helps to plan units out with your grade level team and bounce ideas off one another. For my 2nd graders it seems that writing is a great link up to science: journals, reflections, persuasive letters, etc. The more they do it the better their writing gets and the more observant they become in science. Visual art is also a wonderful partner for Science/ Soc. Studies and lately I'm finding ways to incorporate drama into the "soup" as well. Children can act out stages of science concepts/observations/inquiries; they can do this in small groups, pairs, or solo. The arts make learning so much more fun and memorable for young children. Thank you for the wonderful resources and the inspiration to keep exploring ways to meet the challenges of this profession.

Saba Polakovic
Saba Polakovic
1330 Activity Points

Hi Saba, I like your idea to incorporate visual art into science and social studies. What works of art and/or artists do you use to teach science and social studies lessons? Thanks! Maureen

Maureen Stover
Maureen Stover
41030 Activity Points

Just a small addition to the thematic units: I am attempting to write a Thematic Unit with the book, "Around the World in Eighty Days". I found a free Junior edition in the Kindle library, but the original is a classic. LA (reading, describing, etc...), math (rates, ratios & proportions, metric & conversions, speed, etc...), science (density, force and motion, energy, etc...) and social studies (culture, geography, geology, etc...), art (too much to comment), and almost anything else. All this post is, is just a hint or suggestion that can be used at almost any grade fairly easily. By carefully crafting your curriculum, a fun clever unit incorporating common core standards in all of the content areas can be achieved.

Sue Garcia
Sue Garcia
42665 Activity Points

Reading through this thread I got to thinking that integrating math and science across the curriculum is a really great idea not only at the elementary level but generally. While to motivation here seems to be time, integration connects science and math to application and this tends to enhance content meaning and retention. I put together a small collection of resources for integrating math and science. Not all are relevant to elementary level but they may spawn ideas


Integrating Math Across the Curriculum Collection
(11 items)
Practical uses on Science and Math
     -User Uploaded Resource
Math in Daily Life
     -User Uploaded Resource
Real World Applications of Arithmetic
     -User Uploaded Resource

Pamela Auburn
Pamela Auburn
68535 Activity Points

Post Reply

Forum content is subject to the same rules as NSTA List Serves. Rules and disclaimers