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Elementary Science

Elementary STEM

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Matthew Hartman Matthew Hartman 2865 Points

Hello Elementary Science teachers!

I'm in the process of trying to learn more about what elementary students are capable of in STEM. In your experience, could your students conduct and experiment? Could it be one they developed? How do you tie in real-world problems? Do you let your students ask their own questions and then help them find the answers? Or solve their own problems through engineering design? All of my work has been done with middle and high school students so I'd like to know what elementary students are capable of in STEM. Give me your thoughts. What's too much? And what's not enough? Because sometimes I think we underestimate. But you work with these kids every day, do what can they do?



Mark Parker Mark Parker 2525 Points

Hello Matthew,

I'm a first grade teacher, and I believe elementary students can conduct expexperiements, even their own. I would begin giving them experiments first and then teach them how to create some based on testable questions they come up with naturally. I gained alot of insight from one of NSTA's 'Science and Children' magazine articles entitled 'First Graders Can Do Science.' It features a teacher that takes her students through this very process. I'm still in the process of learning and improving my teaching is this area. Best of luck to you as you gather more information. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Bethany O'Clair Bethany O'Clair 80 Points

Hi Matt!

I think elementary schoolers will really surprise you when it comes to the capability! I feel all children can conduct their own experiments- lower grades just need a little more guidance from you. Grades 3-5 can probably even come up with their own ideas to test. I am a preservice teacher and one of my classes is currently working with 6th graders in a constructivist styled classroom where students plan, research, and conduct their own experiments. It is fascinating to watch them explore and I definitely feel this could be done at a lower level with a little more guidance! My advice would be, prompt younger students more but allow them to do their own thinking. They will surprise you!

Good luck,

Bethany O'Clair

Pre-service Teacher

Matthew Hartman Matthew Hartman 2865 Points

Thanks, Mark and Bethany!

Mark, I looked up that article and it was great. I reached out to the teacher to get more, but have yet to hear back.


Bethany, can you give me some examples of the types of prompts you think younger students would need? I have worked with 6th graders and I agree they are more than capable. It's the K-2 really that I'm most concerned with figuring out HOW to prompt them. DOn't get me wrong, I'm not under-estimating, I'm just not estimating at all because I have no data! :)


Kristen Harold Kristen Harold 1720 Points

Hi Matt, 

I'm a preservice teacher at University of Northern Iowa and have quite a bit of teaching science to 2nd grade and 6th grade students!  My second graders were very capable in learning about science whether it was about matter, ecosystems and even engineeering.  It was easy for me to tie in real world problems because they're natural learners and observers.  A big part of teaching my science units was letting my students wonder, I did help them find answers if neccesary but my lessons were inquiry based so they did a lot of the work and problem solving themseleves.  When teaching ramps and pathways my students were very curious and were able to build different designs and test them, they also used different objects to test what they built; some objects they used were marbles, sponges, bouncy balls, etc.  They knew building some ramps higher would cause the object to get more momentum and bulding ramps flat might cause the object not to move at all.  Our students are very capable if we present them with these different ideas.  If we can present content in a way they can understand it, they can learn anything. 


Isabel Ruiz Isabel Ruiz 220 Points

Hi, Matthew, 

I am in a first grade class and you would be suprised at how much those little ones are capable of! They love hands on activities and experimenting. They do need much more stucture and guidance but they are very capable. They was in which I would approach STEM is by letting students know of trail and errors. I would let them experiment a freely as possible. 

Emma Moss Emma Moss 100 Points


Kids are natural scientist and engineers! The ideas and creativity they possess will surprise you in the best way! I think you can give students some freedom when conducting experiments and approach science with a constructivist approach! Give them some guiding questions and ideas to get them started and help keep their ideas in the activity parameters. I have done many things with allowing students to have freedom and more choice in their learning when it comes to science. For younger students, limit materials and resources they can use to make sure it stays on-task and safe, but as they show thier ability or move through grade levels you can slowly give them more and more opportunities to show you what they know and can come up with! 


Emma Moss

Pre-Service Teacher

Sarah Thompson Sarah Thompson 635 Points

Hello Matt,

I am currently taking a STEAM course now where Art is also integrated in the cross curricular content. I am enjoying the course. I am seeking a master's in early childhood education, and after reading your post, I realized that some of the ideas posted here could be adapted to a kindergarten level.  I watched a 4K student build tunnels and roads in the sand one day. I believe the natural curiosity is there even in the early years. The challenge is to present the content on their level, like you said. If any of you have any suggestions, I would appreciate you sharing.

Thank you,

Sarah Thompson



Valerie Scott Valerie Scott 1385 Points

As a former first-grade and fourth-grade teacher, my students loved doing experiments. We were an IB school, and many of our Science lessons were inquiry-based. We would begin a study by showing students a visual to get them to think about what they were looking at. That started the engagement with students. Depending on the direction of the conversation we would ask probing questions to get students thinking about our topic. I was amazed at some of the insight that students provided. We talked about the laws of motion, and students began to think of ways to demonstrate the concept. Although we were working on it at school, some students continued their learning at home. As a teacher, you love to hear the transition of what is being taught in class, continuing at home. 

Sarah Lung Sarah Lung 50 Points

Hi Matt,

As a pre-service teacher I've seen multiple schools and grade levels where students are successfully able to praticipate in, and create their own experiments. While working in a kindergarten classroom my students were able to help construct experiments, create their own hypothesis, and analyze the results. Most of the time the students had no idea they were naturally being scientifically curious. My students built a bridge out of tables, used UV beads to make UV detector bracelets, and many more fun experiments. We even had 'Wizards' that would come from the WPAFB to teach lessons to the students that were interactive.

-Sarah Lung

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