Working with Elementary and Middle School Science Teachers

By Tushie, Jean | The Science Teacher, December 2009 | Go to article overview

Working with Elementary and Middle School Science Teachers


Tushie, Jean, The Science Teacher


Have you ever seen a fellow high school science teacher throw up his or her hands and say, "What are they teaching kids in elementary- and middle-level science?" Perhaps rather than pointing fingers, we should be working together with these teachers to ensure quality science education for K-12 students.

Young students have a natural curiosity. I am always amazed at the number and depth of questions my elementary-age grandsons ask when we are outdoors. This curiosity must be cultivated. It is never too early to develop inquiry and problem-solving skills, and elementary science education is the perfect place to start. Students should learn to solve different kinds of problems in both conventional and innovative ways. We high school teachers depend on the development of these scientific skills.

However, since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, elementary science education has suffered. As elementary teachers must make adequate yearly progress in reading and math, science lessons often get left out (Griffith and Scharmann 2008). Other factors, such as lack of money and supplies, diminished content preparation, limited support from administration, inadequate professional development, and even low self-confidence in teaching science, contribute to the decreasing amount of science taught in the elementary classroom.

In both 2008 and 2009, the National Congress for Science Education recognized the importance of elementary science instruction. State leaders in science education tackled questions, such as: What transformation needs to happen to make science a core subject in the K-12 curriculum? Why is elementary science critical to the development of a scientifically literate nation? How can K-12 educators in state science associations and affiliated groups become better advocates for elementary science in K-12 curriculum?

As high school teachers, there are number of things we can do to enhance science education:

* Get to know your K-8 colleagues and offer to loan them equipment, discuss any questions they may have, or demonstrate lessons for them.

* Ask your high school students to help with science lessons at local elementary schools.

* Plan an elementary science evening and ask elementary teachers to attend so they can see a science lesson in action.

* Form elementary science professional learning communities to learn how to best restore science to the curriculum and advance K-6 science learning. …

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