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Elementary Science

Science steps

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Rachel Nieto Rachel Nieto 530 Points

Hi everyone, In the state standards for 2nd grade science the students need to be able to follow steps and procedures for experiments. I do have some experiments to do that go with the concept they are learning at the time but I have a feeling that I am not touching the inquiry-based part of it. I was wondering if anyone had any good experiments that students are able to follow procedures while still being inquiry based.

Daniel Carroll Dan Carroll 18595 Points

It seems to me as though this is kind of a challenge for the reasoning level of many 2nd grade aged children. What if you made an activity about developing this reasoning ability. If you had pictures and or words showing each step to make cookies for instance. Then you cut them apart and had the kids arrange them in the proper order. You could make several levels some being easier and some being harder(maybe more discrete steps). Kids could work in groups. It could be differentiated so they start with a bunch of easy ones and then work toward the more complex. I think that cooking ones would be fun and more clear. Later, after doing that a bunch of times, you could move to picture/word procedures. Then they could maybe write some simple ones on their own. I would avoid the favorite science teacher method of having them write how to make a peanut butter sandwich and then no matter how they write it you goof it up. 2nd grade students probably wouldn't respond well to that. Simple.

Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 36728 Points

I have been thinking about this posting a lot. WHile there are certain elements/components that are part of all inquiry, they do not necessarily follow a sequential , linear pattern. It is messy. Sometimes students can be involved in an investigation starrting with a question, making a prediction, trying something, and then going back and strting with a new prediction. I think the more you keep your students actively invovlved in investigation where they are experimenting, finding explanations, drawing conclusions and communicating their ideas through speaking and writing, they are truly doing inquiry based science. Trust your instincts.... I am attaching a learning cycle that might be worth thinking about. Kathy


Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points

This link will lead you to a series of articles in the NSTA journal "Science & Children" about inquiry lessons. I hope this helps.

Susanne Hokkanen Susanne Hokkanen 79520 Points

I agree with Kathy - real science is messy! I would suggest that as your students are experiencing science - real science - that you help them identify the "step" or process they are completing at that moment. Yet also emphasis that science is dynamic...and more circular than linear. Here is a link to a great resource on the process of science: And here is the home page link: Hope this helps...

Michael Leslie Michael Leslie 2110 Points

One method that I have found to work for the elementary grade levels when doing experiments is to make use of the thinking map: flow chart. The steps are written out in boxes that are placed in order on the sheet, either left to right or up to down and the students should fill it out themselves and cannot start the experiment until they do so and they must leave it on their desk while doing the experiment. I have found this to work whenever I give the students a lot of freedom during any particular learning activity. Students have no excuse not to follow the steps and it actually helps them to complete the experiment successfully.

Stephanie Salazar Stephanie Salazar 3580 Points

I agree with Kathy as well, I participated in a lot of inquiry activities in my university science class and it was very messy. Messy in the sense that science is "spur of the moment" you might be observing one minute you get an idea the next and then all of a sudden you have a prediction. I observed a teacher who had the same problem. She decided to keep it simple in order for the students to truly understand the concept that was being taught. I’m a future teacher and I would like to know if there are other approaches (aside from what has been mentioned) to teaching this to students?

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 90613 Points

Rachel said, "In the state standards for 2nd grade science the students need to be able to follow steps and procedures for experiments. " In Illinois, Rachel, we have separate standards for the science process skills and the science content standards. With that being said, what that means is that my preservice teachers can and do provide process skill AND content standards in each of their inquiry lessons. So if an activity in a lesson involves observing, measuring, being able to conduct an experiment, etc., then both process skills and content matter are covered. Which state are you from and what content do you cover in 2nd grade? That way we can provide content AND process skill ideas for you. Carolyn

Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 36728 Points

another thought...Inquiry science isn't a set of experiments and/or procedures. It i asking a question and try to figure out an investigation that will help answwer the question. You will observe, collect, record and analyze the data and maybe you will ask another question. Inquiry is messy. it is part of a learning, it is not a linear process. When you look at the science and engineering practices, it is obvious we are not talking about a lock step scientific method. how can we help colleagues begin to understand this? For some teachers, this is huge. I attached the learning cycle. What do you think? Kathy


Caryn Meirs Caryn Meirs 26235 Points

Kathy - the learning cycle excerpt you attached is really nice - especially for primary grades. Am I correct that it seems like a simplified version of what we will be pushing for in the Next Generation Science Standards?

Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 36728 Points

That learning cycle came from Karen Worth's work in Science & Literacy. This professional development program is meant for teachers grades 3 -5. The elements of the the learning cycle ..making meaning discussion...will definitley complement some of the science and engineering practices in the K -12 Science on which the NGSS will be based. Following this work would also help teachers of the middle grade teachers make the switch to the Common Core in the English Language Arts. I have included the link and a description of this resource. [url=]Science and literacy... A Natural Fit[/url] Integrating science and literacy instruction has often meant having students read about science. But Karen Worth and her colleagues know that we improve both science and literacy achievement with integrated instruction that goes far beyond science reading. They know that understanding science means being able to think, talk, and write effectively about science. Science and Literacy is the professional development program that makes it happen. Professional development leaders will find what they need to help teachers understand and use the many connections between balanced literacy instruction and experiential science. Organized around eight complete modules, the comprehensive Guide shows how to make talk and writing essential tools in science inquiry. The eight modules cover: •Foundations, from the nature of scientific inquiry to the importance of teacher questions (modules 1 and 2) •Classroom talk, from creating a culture of talk to gathering ideas and making meaning (modules 3, 4, and 5) •Writing, from the anatomy of science notebooks to their implementation and to writing beyond the notebook (modules 6, 7, and 8). Each one includes an overview of the key content, an outline of the preparation and materials needed, step-by-step session directions including how to use the DVD materials. There is also ample guidance for customizing the program to meet your needs. The DVD includes: •Classroom videos with transcripts and notes •Handouts, take-home packets, and mini-lessons •Student samples •Participant readings •A bibliography for further readings •Facilitator slides. Science and Literacy is the guidebook to strengthen science knowledge as it develops authentic literacy skills. “Just as science writing and reading can be done as part of literacy instruction, students’ literacy skills can be reinforced in the authentic context of inquiry-based science. The relationship is a reciprocal one, enriching students’ learning and skill development in both domains."

Maureen Stover Maureen Stover 41070 Points

Hi Rachel,

Wow! What a great response to your question! As many of the teachers have posted, science can be messy and it can be difficult to find a way to incorporate inquiry into your everyday lessons. I for one was very nervous to embark on inquiry based science in my elementary classroom. When I first started inquiry-based lessons, I used directed inquiry. This gave my students the experience of inquiry while giving me the peace of mind that my classroom wouldn't fall into chaos ;). As the kids learned the process of inquiry, we were able to move on to full inquiry lessons. One of the best resources I've found for inquiry based lessons is the Picture Perfect Science Lessons series. These books pair books with hands-on science lessons. You can find sample chapters of the books in the NSTA Learning Center by searching for 'picture perfect science lessons'


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