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Different Ways To Teach Science In The Classroom

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Rashalla Young Rashalla Young 1165 Points

Hi Everyone! I am Rashalla Young, and I attend Henderson State University. I am pursuing a degree in Elementary Education. One day I hope to teach in an Elementary classroom. I am not big on science, and I want to know different ways to teach science to make my students interested. As well as myself. So what are some tips and advice that I could use? 

Matt Bobrowsky Matt Bobrowsky 6325 Points

Hi, Rashalla.

Two points are relevant to your question: (1) To keep students engaged in learning and excited about science, we should present science not as facts to be memorized but as a process of exploration and discovery. (2) There is now a substantial body of research on how children learn and how they learn science best. The most positive outcomes occur when inquiry-based pedagogical methods are used in the classroom. I'm sure others will suggest various resources for this. I am a strong proponent of the Phenomenon-Based Learning (PBL) approach, which is ideal for eliciting the kind of creative curiosity that makes students want to learn. It builds knowledge of, and interest in, science as a result of observations of real-world phenomena, or perhaps some interesting toys, gadgets, et cetera. The idea is to teach broader concepts and useful thinking and performance skills rather than asking students to simply memorize facts. (Memorizing facts is not science.) What happens is, students, working in groups, will investigate an interesting phenomenon and, motivated by their own curiosity, explore and discover how it works and what sorts of science are involved. So the approach to learning is based on reasoning, curiosity, and creativity. Fun for the students and fun for you!

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P.S.  PBL is also excellent for motivating students to become more proficient in math and ELA.

Tyler Evans Tyler Evans 490 Points

Hi Rashalla! 

I can relate to this so much! I am also not big on science, sadly. HOWEVER, listening to your students and seeing what piques their interests is going to be key. If you have a love for students, then you'll have a love for what they want to learn about. By this I mean, see what questions they ask about life and make lessons from those! Obviously you want to make sure they are connected to a standard, but finding phenomenon students are curious about will get them curious, then hopefully their curiosity will inspire you. 

I had a student see frost outside on the grass and they asked about how it had 'snow' on it (it was frost) when it didn't snow. I linked this to a standard about water in the atmosphere. I then taught a lesson on condensation and evaporation. It was a lot of fun to see them understand the world around them! 

Shajeeah Jan Shajeeah Jan 1620 Points

Hello Rashalla! 

Just like you, I am pursuing a degree in Elementary Education. I wish to teach 3rd or 4th graders!

I am still learning and don't have much insight but I would like to briefly share my experiences with science. When I was younger, I used to love science. The teachers gave us fun experiments and there were fun topics. We even went on field trips. But then, I grew up. Haha. I started to not like learning science anymore when I got to high school. Things just got harder for me to understand. I remember being in high school where none of the teachers I had would give any experiments. All we did was read off of a textbook. It used to upset me because I would actually see high school students online (youtube, snapchat, etc.) having such great experiences in their science classes. I wondered why my school didn't do that stuff.

Anyway, to somewhat answer your question and the reason why I shared that experience is because I believe hands-on experiments are crucial especially in a science classroom. To really understand life's phenomenons, we need to see it and feel it with our senses; we need to test it, experiment it...even as teens and adults. Just because the students are at an age in which they can read well, does not mean we throw textbooks at them. I understand that sometimes getting the supplies must be hard for teachers but when I got into college and took a 'Teaching Science in Elementary School' course, my professor taught me that there are so many ways to get supplies where you don't even have to buy them i.e. recycled items, saved up items from home or friends and/or simply asking around. It's all about collecting and saving.

Another tip I'd give is taking the students on trips and/or letting them experience wildlife or sea life with their own two eyes. It makes it fun and lets them understand that everything they are learning is really real. It's a teacher's duty to help all children feel that life is really worth learning about and seeing. There are many students who may not even leave the house much; field trips and going out can really be a great experience for them in which they are not only having fun rather learning about everything around them while having fun. Even showing videos about wildlife/sealife is great too because I know, although it's more ideal, it's not always easy planning a field trip with a full classroom. 

Hannah Gillett Hannah Gillett 400 Points

Hello Rashalla! I am also pursuing my teaching degree.  My advice to you would be to start out however you are comfortable. This could be with hands-on activities, power points, showing videos then discussions, ect. Then as time goes on you will be able to see what works best for your students. It is okay to fail! if something doesn't work out then try a different method. 

Denise Rodriguez Denise Rodriguez 760 Points

Hi Rashalla!

Like you, I wish to teach at the Elementary level some day and I am not the best at science as well. Although I'm not a techer yet, i can answer your question by looking back at my experience a student in science class. From what i can remember, the days where i was interested in the lesson was when my teacher would connect the topic to daily things we experience. Another way is to make it fun because kids will alays be interested in things that are fun or could be made into something entertaining.    

Kellesha Reese Kellesha Reese 595 Points

Your comment is very helpful. I am currently student teaching in an elementary math classroom and I notice our students here do a lot of memorizeing in this classroom which I can't stand, but I try my best to assist students in their learning to make sure students are really learning, instead of memorizing math facts. I just thought I'd throw this in here because the two kind of connect, and the problem can be displayed across multiple subjects.

Makaila Saylor Makaila Saylor 690 Points

I loved the insight that this article brought on how to make science in the classroom more engaging. I think that a PBL Approach is a great way to investiagte various scientific phenomena, espciallly those that happen in our own realm of observation. Science is something that should be investigted, explored and elaborated on. Recently, I have learned about applying the principals of a 3-D and 5-D learning model to science lessons. Encoouraging students to explore science in a hands-on way, using materials and tools that are authentic and relatable to the real-world experience. Students should be able to move around, touch and talk in a science lesson. This provides opportunities for more connections to be made and elaboration to occur that extends the applied knowledge. I do agree that it is important to also integrate the lessons with mathematics or literacy, which can be easily achieved. Connections can be made across multiple disiplines and also be multimodal. One thing that does make me wary of memorization, is that students are simply just reguratating the material to 'pass' versus actually retaining, applying and extending their knowledge. Access to materials should also be considered for teachers and students who teach or go to a district with less access to materials OR those who don't have science in the curricula at all. 

Md. Hossian Md. Hossian 302 Points

Science is to unravel the unknown mysteries of the environment. First you have to present an environmental phenomenon and observe their interest in it.If you teach them about the reality, then they will be interested in science.

Christopher Like Christopher Like 340 Points

I am excited to hear you are getting into elementary teaching! Here are some tips for teaching science effectively. 

1) If students are not figuring something out, you are doing it wrong. Teaching science is all about 'sense-making' of phenomena. 

2) Use phenomena instead of content as the basis for your lesson. Instead of teaching a unit on say, the digestive system, in biology class, I would turn that lesson into 'Why do I get diarrhea?' In answering this question, students do need to know the digestive system, but it is much more interesting. In elementary school, look for things that students have experienced (Astronomy- Why can we see the moon in the daytime? Life Science- What kind of plants should we plant to get more butterflies around here? Physical Science/Life Science- How do cat's see?) There are a lot of great websites out there, including NSTA, that have example phenomena. 

3) Questioning is key!! If you are not comfortable with the science material, don't worry. Develop good questioning techniques to drive the class forward and then let the students investigate things. When I say good questioning techniques I mean more than Question-Response-Clarification. When they respond to your question, shoot them another to make them clarify, or pass the question off to another student. 

4) Never tell them the answer! This seems weird, but remember, we want students figuring things out, not getting information from you. The second you start giving answers, they will continue to look to you for validation and stop questioning. One investigation should lead to another. I never think about discussions leading to an answer, I think about them as the class coming to concensus as to what we believe. 

Kara Murrow Kara Murrow 180 Points

One of  the biggest things I have learned about teaching science is making sure that it is hands on an active.  Now, that being said, you don't have to have big labs to have an impact.  I have been blessed, through a variety of grants, to have a well stocked science classroom, but sometimes the activities with the biggest impact didn't cost a dime.  Scavenger hunts around the school are one of my students' favorite activites.  Have them search for, and find,science around them in their everyday world. You need to relate science to their world.  So many kids think of science as someting that 'only really smart' adults can do.  They need to start thinking of themselves as scientists from a young age.  

Science should also be student led, not teacher led.  The only time I spend in front of my class doing direct instruction is at the beginning of the unit so I can front load them with information.  AFter that point, I do very little 'teaching'.  My students do all of the work.  They explore through labs, digital lesson activities, task cards and games.  

I believe that my biggest responsibility as a science teacher is teaching my students critical thinking skills.  They need to be able to look at a problem, find evidence, come up with possible solutions and then test those theories.  They also need to understand that failure is not a bad thing, it is an opportunity for learning and growth.  

Morgan Gonzales Morgan Gonzales 230 Points

I totally agree on this statement that you have provided. I am hoping to one day become a teacher in elementary and find this very interesting. Because students do in fact learn better when there is hands on activities and that is the fun part about science is that you can do fun experiements with the students.  

Morgan Gonzales Morgan Gonzales 230 Points

What are some activities that you reccomend for teaching science?


Matt Bobrowsky Matt Bobrowsky 6325 Points

Morgan, I present science activities in each one of my 'Science 101' columns in Science and Children.


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