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Elementary Science

No Science in the Classroom

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Hi, I am currently a student teacher in a sixth grade classroom in Southern San Diego. One of the biggest disappointments I had this year was the fact that my students do not get science or social studies instruction. While there is an attempt to incorporate social studies/historical content into literacy instruction, I have noticed that science is completely disregarded. I have walked into other classrooms (lower grade) at the school and I have seen clear indication that there is science in the classroom. I have spoken to many fellow student teachers and many have agreed that their students get little to no science instruction. I am wondering why this and if it is common among other districts. Thanks, Jessica :)

Brandon Ishikata Brandon Ishikata 330 Points

Jessica, I am a student teacher too and have the same situation. At my school, we have a lot of English Language Learners and many teachers believe that we need to focus on the English first then Science second. In my program, I've learned that science is actually an effective and meaningful subject for elementary students to be engaged in. It is very hands on and gives students a chance to explore.

Rebeca Corona Rebeca Corona 3010 Points

Hey Jessica, I am an undergraduate majoring in Elementary Education, while doing my field experience I have noticed that science and social students are taken for granted. When that should not be the case because social studies teaches students how to become citizens and science helps them make sense of the world. I think the reason why students are not interested in science or social studies is because teachers do not teach it, or when they do teach it, it is basic and boring. Since, teachers’ salaries are based on students score on the FSA (the test Florida students are tested on) teachers only focus on what it being tested on that test, which is math and reading.

Melissa Johnson Melissa Johnson 795 Points

Here in South Florida, times can vary from school to school. At the school where I am currently working (as a pre-service teacher) students get 35 minutes of Science instruction. It is unfortunate to hear that there isn't a dedicated time for Science with students, and would most definitely result in knowledge gaps and misconceptions since they are missing out on much needed instruction. I would definitely encourage you to teach Science in Math (fractions can be taught then used to collect data/use measurement tools/constructing graphs), use the outdoors to have students write Haikus or other writing pieces, or incorporate science in any other way possible (same for history). There are lots of creative ways to teach both during language/writing or math instruction. Hope this helps!

Corina Garcia Corina Garcia 505 Points

Hi! I teach math and science to two grade levels (4th and 5th) in Texas and we do a lot of testing, so, unfortunately, I think that helps to drive instruction. I have each class for 2.5 hours. Our district requires that I teach math for a minimum of 95 minutes and science for 45 minutes. Some days get more math or science, depending on my students' needs. The time treatment and lessons have to be documented in our lessons. This is pretty important because our state test for science first occurs in 5th grade. Our district also has content-based assessments for each grade level every 9 weeks for accountability and results are posted district-wide.

Lauren Price Lauren Price 470 Points

Jessica,  This was a huge disappointment of mine as well during my student teaching. I understand that reading and language arts are crucial in the academic development of students, but to not be incorporating science into a 6th grade classroom is hurting the students as they continue the rest of their education. These students will already be behind their peers academically and will be at a disadvantage in their middle school and high school classes. 

Lauren Thompson Allen Lauren Thompson 2030 Points

The content priorities often follow testing and comfort.  More time and resources are spent on whatever assessment for which the school is held accountable.  Teachers teach to their strengths.  If they are not receiving support to teach science and do not have a background in science their understanding and depth may be limited. Advocating for science within your school and with your admin and gaining support from the community (parents, nonprofits, etc) can help change hearts and minds.  The data, and even the President Obama, support you in this endeavor. :)

Isabel Duane Isabel Duane 255 Points

Hello, I am currently an elementary education major and I have spent a good amount of time observing multiple different grade levels as of now. I have to agree that while I have been observing I have also noticed that there has not been any, if at all, instruction of science. I think this has to do a lot with what kind of school it is and what I guess the students are being required to learn for future exams.

Randi Perry Randi Perry 245 Points

Hi Everyone! I too am currently doing my student observation within Elementary classrooms and have noticed the lack of Science within the classrooms.  I also have noticed with the homework and questions my own children come home with.  They are in 2nd and 3rd grade and neither of them have more than a 1/2 hour 2-3 times a week of Science.  I was greatly disappointed as I feel Science is a wonderful tool and allows students to think outside the box while exploring.  I understand teachers are teaching based on what they are being instructed on but my hopes is that Science and Social Studies are both adding back into the curriculum soon. 

Melissa Blanco Melissa Blanco 540 Points

I think this idea may only be appropriate for young children like in kindergarten.

Allison Estal Allison Estal 1015 Points

I agree that educators often focus on English Language Arts before Science. It is important for students to have a balance of all of these subjects. We need to find ways to mix this content so that we are giving students a healthy balance of all of these subjects at the elementary level to prepare them for their future education. Often times, we can have students read about science. This is an example of combining the subjects together to allow more time and a better balance for these subjects. Has anyone witnessed mixed content?

Kira Jacobson Kira Jacobson 160 Points

I am a high school ELL teacher (with a biology license) and science is an excellent context for language! Allison, I completely agree with you. We need to do a much better job of blending subjects. My HS English teacher colleague feels discouraged because her students don't show much improvement in the skills they assess. But skills take many years to develop and 40 minutes a day won't do much. I think language arts should have a designated time in the day (to teach grammar and literary devices), but it certainly shouldn't take away from other content areas; it should be embedded within them! I love bringing science into my English language classroom, and the students don't even question the science content focus because we're always working on language development simultaneously.  Do those of you teaching science feel like it would be easy to incorporate language development into your science lessons regularly (even just reading practice, writing practice, vocab development)?

Hannah Johnston Hannah Johnston 755 Points

I'm currently student teaching in a 3rd grade class and I teach science everyday. My mentor teacher gave this subject over to me because it is not one of the state tests they have to take. I can tell that my kids LOVE science and really enjoy the content I'm teaching. It is the first subject she pushes to the side if another one needs extra time. I think this is reasonable since they don't get tested on science this year, but there should be at least a little science instruction daily. The kids love it, so why not give them some fun learning time? Teaching them to enjoy learning and exploration is really important to me. 

Colin Hanson Colin Hanson 65 Points

Love the topic and responses!  Thanks for the post and all the replies.  Reading through the replies, I feel there is combination of all that people are saying throughout every district (lack of time, lack of materials, lack of support, etc.).  In my school, I have held on to teaching Science (and the other teacher teaches S.S.) 30 minutes every day.  It is not enough time, but it is a constant in our schedule and I think that helps.  Look at state testing, everyone is tested in Reading, Math, and Language Arts.  However, 4th, 8th, and maybe 10th graders are tested in those three along with Science and S.S.  So, if there isn’t much emphasis on these two courses, schools are more likely to cut time from them to give Math, Reading, and Language Arts more time.  Schools want to score well (we used to have a School Report Card in WI), so more time is given to the Reading and Math classes.  On that same note, do you think schools are getting away from Science and S.S. in the elementary because of the reading level it takes to understand what is said in the books?!  It is non fiction and that requires a much higher reading ability.  I know there are many students in my class right now that are below grade level in reading.  Because of where their skills are, they are getting pulled from Science and S.S. to receive Title 1 services and other interventions! Lastly, I agree teaching methods could be a reason for students not being interested.  When I was a kid, we rarely did labs/experiments.  I think there needs to be a combination of reading and experimenting to keep the students learning and engaged.  I have tried to change my units to be more “lab based”, with some reading to go with the project.  I just don’t want to set the students up for failure when they go to middle school.  Thanks.  Colin.   

Jessica Williams Jessica Williams 1125 Points

That is true! In my elementary school science is really not being taught like it should and I think it is not right. Science is important and relate to everyday life.

Victoria Huynh Victoria Huynh 540 Points

At the beginning of my student teaching, I thought science was highly regarded in the classroom. Since then, I have seen teachers who skipped over science lessons because they just don't have time for it during the day. From the different grades I've observed, it's second grade and below that doesn't focus on science as much.

Jaclyn Abbott Jaclyn Abbott 565 Points

Based on my experience, still somewhat limited, in Miami-Dade science is taught from 1st grade on. The science that is taught though is not necessarily what I would consider to be true science, but rather what needs to be taught for the Florida Standard Assessment.  In response to your question, schools may be forced to teach what is tested on by their particular district. For example, in Miami Dade there is a lack of art, music, and in some cases physical education because it is not covered in the exam. Districts will cite budget issues as why these subjects are no longer taught, but if they were tested upon I believe that they would find room.
I have done field hours at three different schools and it seems that every teacher is focused on the requirements of a particular test and not a well rounded curriculum. This is not their fault, as in Florida it is all about the standard test scores; unfortunately teacher’s salaries and jobs depend on it.

Blondine Isnady Blondine Isnady 530 Points

Hi, Jessica, It seems like this is a common issue in our classrooms. I am currently doing my field experience hours and they do have science time, however it is a short amount of time. I strongly believe science in the classroom is very important. Teachers spend so much time drilling math and reading into the students which is most of the time seat work they forget about subjects like science and social studies that is also important. I think that science is one those subjects where students can actually engage in and do hands-on activities compared to just sitting down all day and doing reading and math.

Delilah Venegas Delilah Venegas 425 Points

Stephanie Lobo Stephanie Lobo 435 Points

This is unfortunate. When I do my field hours (in Miami, Florida) they have time dedicated for Science only. Students really benefit from this time because they do a lot of hands on activities and a lot of knowledge that they learn in Science time, they incorporate it into other subjects. Hope this problem fixes soon! -Stephanie L.

Carolina Lopez Carolina Lopez 235 Points

Hi I'm Carolina Lopez, and I am currently still in my junior year of College. Throughout my field experience, I was able to notice that the science instruction ranges depending on the teacher. I believe that it is a rather difficult subject to get children across in, mainly, because they don't get tested as much so they choose to just ignore it and focus on Reading and Math for example. Other teachers, have made it a point to make science a subject that interests students. At the school I am at, they incorporate science in multiple ways. They incorporate language into it and teach it in a mixture of Spanish and English. This grabs the attention of those students who are very interested in learning a second language while at the same time making it hands-on. Another way that they incorporate science, is that they create engineering projects. They give students a problem like: Help reduce heat from the hottest place on the campus (play ground for example). And students partner up and they have to create their own solution to this and then they have to build it. Science is everywhere and as teachers we have to find a way to make it fun and a learning experience as well; not focus so much on the testing aspects.

Karen Mollway Karen Mollway 555 Points

I will be student teaching in the fall and I noticed the same thing during my field experience. Some schools really wanted their teachers to teach science but at other schools they were more focused on reading and math. The schools that taught science were in areas that the socioeconomic status was high (parents are mostly professionals) and the schools that focused on reading and math were in areas where the socioeconomic status was much lower (parent are blue collar workers). I know that students who come from poor families have a harder time in school but they should still be introduced to science. Science can always be integrated into most other subjects including reading and math.

H Mortimer H Mortimer 20 Points

I agree with Colin and Carolina, as science can be incorporated in small ways in other studies. Like how academies in high schools try to incorporate lessons on art in math classes for art-focused students, science can be incorporated in small ways in other studies at the elementary school level. Science practice is making predictions, collecting evidence, making conclusions, and then sharing the research with others. Many disciplines have similar approaches. Making charts and graphs after using simple tools such as scales and rulers is science. Making tables or describing objects qualitatively is science. For example in an English class, when a character is described in the book, the students can all draw the character and the drawings can be categorized according to color or emotions and predictions about the fate of the character can be made. Then, the predictions can be compared with the result later in the story. I wonder, are there other activities in 'nonscience' studies that can incorporate making predictions, collecting data, and comparing the predictions to the results?

Amanda Byrum Amanda Byrum 780 Points

Hi Jessica, I think that it all depends on testing. Here in Texas, our 5th graders have a state standardized Science test, so we are able to teach science for a dedicated 75 minutes each day. Sometimes it does get shortchanged in order to focus more on math & reading, however we try not to. However, next year I'm transferring to a 4th grade classroom. In TX, our 4th graders are tested on math, reading & writing. I'm really hoping that my science time doesn't get taken away with my younger students next year. - Amanda B.

Katheryne Ayers Katheryne Ayers 545 Points

I start my student teaching this fall, but I have been lucky enough to be in the same district for the past year and a half. I've noticed that neither the third grade class I worked with the first semester, nor the second grade class I worked with last year had much science. Typically, in third grade, science and social studies are done in alternating weeks, but the science is typical read from a textbook and fill out a worksheet. There was never any hands on activity for students to do. With my second grade class, they don't even have a science (or social studies) textbook and the only science (and social studies) they got comes in the form of a Scholastic News, which comes only once and week and to me, it's just another tool that is being used to prepare them for a test. They're reading an informational text and filing in a bubble or answering questions from the text. There doesn't seem to be any in-depth understanding of what they're supposed to be doing. Luckily, the school will sometimes bring in local organizations to do a little science with them, but it's definitely not enough. By contrast, I know the fourth, fifth and sixth graders do get science instruction. They change classrooms, so they have specialized teachers for science, math and social studies. They get to have time set aside to do science throughout the day. My biggest concern though, is that it seems like they're going into fourth grade without having any foundational skills whatsoever in science. If they barely do science in K-3, then how can they build on what the standards are wanting them to explore when they have no prior knowledge or exposure to any of these concepts?

John Philpot John Philpot 2655 Points

I have heard about this from others in many districts. I am fortunate. I teach fifth grade math and science in a school where classes are differentiated or where we switch classes. I often feel that time is limited for science and social studies instruction because reading and math take priority; however, we manage to implement science instruction. I would have a difficult time accepting a position in a district that didn't get specific science instruction. The students are who suffer most when this occurs.

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