Academic journal article Science and Children

Business a Community of Scientists: Ideas for Starting off the School Year with a Focus On: Ideas for Starting off the School Year with a Focus on Science and Continuing All Year Long

Academic journal article Science and Children

Business a Community of Scientists: Ideas for Starting off the School Year with a Focus On: Ideas for Starting off the School Year with a Focus on Science and Continuing All Year Long

Article excerpt

There is nothing more exhilarating than opening the classroom door on the first day of school to look upon the freshly scrubbed, smiling faces of your new students. You can feel the excitement in the air as students wonder what is on the other side of the door. Of course, you do not want to disappoint them!

On the other hand, we all know that one of the biggest challenges in the early weeks of the new school year is to keep learning interesting and the students engaged as routines and procedures are established and reinforced. How can a classroom teacher make the routines and procedures engaging and educational, while building a community of learners? The answer is simple ... build a community of scientists in your classroom with science, science, and more science. The first two weeks of school provide the perfect opportunity to set the stage for a sound academic program with science as its foundation.

This article describes a 5E learning cycle and follow-up activities designed to turn your third-grade students into scientists at the beginning of the school year. The first two weeks of the school year are the perfect time to introduce students to the importance of posing questions, making observations, using tools in investigations, collecting data, implementing notebooks, and communicating with peers. When students are engaged in scientific inquiry, they develop important skills and understanding that promote critical thinking and problem solving (NRC 1996). These skills and understanding can be integrated into all aspects of the classroom and curriculum during the school year.

Engaging With a Guest

Our third-grade curriculum revolves around our changing world. In order to observe the changes in our rural environment throughout the year, we take nature walks around our school yard, our neighborhood, and our local park. To help my students learn to make good observations about what is found in our changing environment, I invite a ranger from our local state park system to discuss the plants and animals found in our area. Ranger Mary is a scientist who brings in animals, both live and preserved ones, along with samples and pictures of plants from our area to share with my students. The ranger talk is engaging and informative for the students. She provides a wonderful opportunity to expose and to connect children to the real world, while discussing what she does as a scientist. Not only does our invited scientist get my students excited for science, but they begin to see the link between science and future occupations. She helps students see the connection between studying science and its use in the real world. After our ranger talk, my students take their nature walks very seriously because they want to be a scientist just like Ranger Mary.

In addition to Ranger Mary, I have been fortunate to have some of my students' parents visit our classroom to share what they do as scientists. Who better than a scientist to reinforce what science is and what scientists do? I have had a dentist visit our class to discuss dental health. A dietician has discussed eating healthfully and staying active. An engineer from our local water district has shared his knowledge and expertise about keeping our drinking water safe and the importance of using water wisely. Science is all around us, and it makes sense to help our students see the connection between studying science and its use in the real world.

Exploring Our World

Introducing my students to the practices associated with scientific inquiry at the beginning of the year sets the stage for future learning. While my students are doing science, they learn to conduct investigations, to use tools appropriately, to work in groups, to record information in their notebooks, and to develop important communication skills. These newfound skills develop scientific thinking and understanding.

Now that my students have met a scientist, it is time for them to be scientists. …

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