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Elementary Science

Elementary Science Misconceptions

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Tara Browning Tara Browning 200 Points

Hello! I am studying to become a teacher, and this semester I have to teach a science lesson the revolves around one science misconception the students have. I know that sometimes even adults and/or teachers still have misconceptions. So, I am just curious, what is a science misconception you had even as an adult/teacher and what finally helped you change you thoughts about that topic?

Jennifer Maher Jennifer Maher 1205 Points

One misconception I have encountered is the belief that plants get the majority of what they need to grow from soil. They observe that the plant changes over time and just assume that the plant is taking the majority of what it needs from the soil. Even with an understanding of photosynthesis, this idea persists. I have them record the mass of a seed, the mass of soil and a container. They plant the seed and then after about 2-3 weeks they find the mass of the plant and the mass of the container/soil again. Usually that is enough for them to see that the mass of the soil stayed pretty constant, so they begin thinking about the carbon dioxide and sunlight as well. This is the beginning of the realization that matter is conserved in an ecosystem and flows in from a variety of sources.

Connie Kennedy Connie Kennedy 600 Points

This is such a fantastic topic!! Thank you for bringing it up. It reminds me of the importance of assessing prior knowledge and flushing out those misconceptions. Keep up the good work!

Marina Hamilton Marina Hamilton 730 Points

There are misconceptions about the scientific method concerning the fact that it must follow those exact steps in order to conduct an experiment. Sometimes the experiment happens before the hypothesis. This tends to happen a lot in an inquiry based lesson and 5 E lessons. 

Laura Dang Laura Dang 995 Points

One misconception I've had and have seen other students have is that a hypothesis means an educated guess. By saying this it sounds like you simply just have to make a guess! But in reality a hypothesis isn't just a guess but rather an explanation we make about something that we have limited evidence of. By saying it is a guess makes it seem that we don't even choose to like at the evidence. I've learned this my entire life on through High School, and it was interesting as a college student to learn differently. 

Scott Gierasch Scott Gierasch 1415 Points

I really liked your question and that got me thinking about science misconceptions. For elementary school students (and probably some adults) I think it's a common misconception that seasons occur because of the earth's distance to the sun. The misconception is that in summer the earth is closer to the sun making it warmer and in winter it is farther away from the sun making it cooler. I think this misconception is partially caused by elementary students not always understanding that what they experience where they live is not necessarily what everyone else experiences. Obviously if the distance from the sun controlled the seasons, the entire planet would experience the same season, but we know the seasons are different in the northern and southern hemispheres. I like the idea of correcting this misconception in elementary school because it has the added benefit of making students think about how people in other parts of the world live.

Kristi Brockschmidt Kristi Brockschmidt 2440 Points

I think one of the more challenging topics to really visualize or understand (because it's invisible) is electric and magnetic fields. I have an electrical engineering degree and took many classes on electromagnetics. A few years ago I ran across a homeschooling website that described that the field lines were there because electrons were zipping out of one end of the magnet to the other end of the magnet! I did a double take. And then realized 'how really do you describe that to an adult or a small person when it's so abstract?' Ditto with the force of gravity There is a wonderful picture book called 'Gravity is a Mystery'. We know what gravity does because we can see it's effects, but what really is a 'force'?

Tara Browning Tara Browning 200 Points

Thank you all for your responses! It is interesting learning about misconceptions, because just how Jennifer mentioned the misconception that plants get nutrients from soil, I just learned (as a college senior) that is not the case. I understood photosynthesis and have had many lessons about plants, but I guess I just missed something. The lesson I will be teaching will be to 3rd grade on the misconceptions of natural selection/adaptation. I am very excited about it!

Lisa Silva Lisa Silva 1065 Points

I have found that a misconception that young students have is that the Sun is made of fire.

An Nguyen An Nguyen 995 Points

In second grade, some of the science misconceptions are: the moon can only be seen during the night, the sun rises and sets at the exact same time every single day, or during the new moon phase of the moon cycle, there is no moon at all. 

Amy Thomas Amy Thomas 485 Points

I am also a student teacher and am interested in misconceptions students have, relating to plants and animals.  I have found that they are misunderstanding key ideas because they just have a partial understanding of the topic.  I found it helpful to use a KLEW chart to see what they know and are wondering.  

Nicole Bush nicole bush 650 Points

One science misconception I recently found out is that lightning can strike in the same place twice. I read a fact about the Empire State Building. It gets struck by lightning about 25 times a year. I'm sure you can make a really awesome lesson plan on lightning and about how it can strike in the same place twice. You can also add a section about being safe when there's a storm going on outside. 

Andrea Nodarse Andrea Nodarse 280 Points

One misconception that I have learned in college is that a plant is not the same thing as a flower! I always thought that the parts of a plant were the same as the parts of a flower. News to me I guess! 

Gladys Ruiz Gladys Ruiz 810 Points

One misconception I see my third grade students have is that a mixture can only be related to food. When I had to do my lesson over mixtures of course I used some examples of food but when I brought out other mixture examples non-related to food it's like they didn't know a thing about mixtures. I had to take them through the whole lesson again on what is a mixture and what are some signs that whatever you're looking at could be a mixture. Not only did my class struggle but the other third grade classes did as well according to the other teachers. I knew what a mixture was but even I have a hard time understanding this as well. 

Anacristina Torres Anacristina Torres 2245 Points

Hello! I feel one big scientific misconception is that everything revolves around the scientific method. For inquiry based assignments, you must first conduct the research and collect data. Students (and teachers) must understand that there is no one specific form to science but instead many different approaches that can be taken.


One misconception I had was about the times when the moon could be seen. I always thought that moon was seen only at night until I saw it in the daylight one time and decided to research into it. I also learned it from my Science courses.

Marisol Lara Marisol Lara 1185 Points

One common misconception is that the moon changes its phases at random when it actually follows a pattern. Another common misconception is that it takes 24 hours for the moon to orbit the Earth.

Ashlee Jones Ashlee Jones 445 Points

Though it may not be a very common adult misconception, the senses are a great place to really dive into the power of the brain. To think that sounds is made of vibrations and that color is manifestations of light. These are very powerful and complex ideas, but I think it is great to build a strong foundation because this skill set lends itself to many science concepts as the students grow older.

Kimberly Chhouen Kimberly Chhouen 465 Points

Hello! I am student teaching right now as well and I recently created a few lessons based off student's scientific misconceptions. I am in a kindergarten placement and one of the most common misconceptions is that plants need soil to survive. In order to lead them towards the correct conceptual understanding of plant survival needs, we did a planting investigation unit. Good luck.

Emily Lopez Emily Lopez 750 Points

One misconception I've always had was that the moon did not rotate. However, I just found out the other day that it does! Wow! To tackle misconceptions, address them as early on as possible. We don't want our kids growing up thinking one thing, then learning something completely different when they become older!

Mariam Kassas Mariam Kassas 890 Points

Hello Tara, I'm studying to become a teacher too! I took an elementary science course this semester, and I found out that I had several misconceptions. The first one that corrected was the way I defined a theory as an "educated guess", when in fact no where in a scientific experiment is a "guess" made. Even with the use of the word "educated", suggesting that it is a guess undermines the process and reflects an inaccurate idea. Another common misconception is how we believe light travels, and the first thing that comes to people's minds is, "in straight lines", which is incorrect. Light travels in waves, which in straight lines. I hope this helps. Good luck on your studies! Mia

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