by Tami O’Connor
Okay, so you’re a new (or not-so-new) elementary teacher, and you need to teach science. Some teachers feel apprehensive when they think they have to teach science, but let me assure you, it’s the easiest subject to teach in elementary school. Why? Because the kids are totally into it! Children are born with that natural curiosity. As infants, everything goes into their mouths to taste, feel and discover their surroundings. It’s only when we kill this curiosity that kids begin to dislike or even fear science class. Here are 20 easy tips for all elementary teachers that will foster your students’ love of science.
Elementary Science Teachers, Take Note!
Girls are every bit as smart as boys. When discussing scientists in general, vary the genders. Unless you’re speaking about a specific person, don’t always refer to a scientist as “he” or “him.”
When teaching science, be sure to plan at least one day each week where your lesson is hands-on. Let your kids explore and discover.
Invite your principal in during a hands-on lesson to see how much your students enjoy science and how much they’re learning. Be sure to have your principal participate in the activity. Odds are, he or she is not a science person and will be very impressed!
Always try the experiment before you do it with your class… Enough said.
If you don’t know the answer, bring up the question anyway. Discover things together with your students. You don’t need to know everything. Remember, we want to develop lifelong learners. Be their best example.
Set boundaries—you will have far fewer behavior problems if your kids know they won’t be allowed to “play” during experiment time.
Be EXCITED and EXCITING!
Join your state’s science teacher association and go to conferences. You will learn LOTS of neat stuff!
Remember that your kids have a natural curiosity about the world around them. Foster it with objects and events that enable them to make their own discoveries.
Have a science discovery table and change the items on it regularly—and let your students play with the stuff and discover on their own.
Take advantage of the resources available to you. Are there materials at the district high school, local library, or university that you can borrow to bring into your classroom?
If you find large, dead bugs outside, put them in a magnifier box and show your students (even if they’re gross)!
Don’t act squeamish in the presence of things normally make you squeamish (at least not in front of your kids…).
At open house, make a Post-it® note tree on your door. On each note, write down something you’d like for your science table. It’s the easiest way to get items you don’t have the budget to provide yourself.
Keep live animals in your classroom. Have a class pet.
Encourage students to bring interesting rocks back from vacation. Label each with the place of discovery and the child’s name. Always pick up a rock when you travel. After a few years, you’ll have a nice collection. You’ll also find that former students will bring you rocks long after they’ve passed your class.
Each month, have a science Show and Tell day. Always start it off yourself with something neat.
Just because it’s not in the curriculum doesn’t mean you can’t teach it. Take advantage of those teachable moments. If something unexpected comes up and the kids are excited about it, teach it.
Consider using science notebooks. Visit Reading Rockets or TheSciencePenguin.com for some really great ideas for notebooks and lots of other great science advice. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, simply Google, “science notebooks” and you’ll be surprised with the plethora of advice that’s available!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Lots of great stuff is available on the Internet for free, but visiting other classrooms (in your district or outside of your district) can also open your eyes to new ideas. And just to put in a good word, Educational Innovations is always here to help you teach great science!