Children of elementary age have a curiosity about the world that teachers can use for instructional purposes. Science instruction appeals to this curiosity in a unique way when teacher use a rich variety of demonstrations and observations available to them. Science instruction always leans heavily on involvement, but when things are new they are tend to be most interesting.
Science instruction begins to lose its “magic” in middle school when necessary abstractions are introduced. By making science more familiar early, teachers might help to prevent the loss in interest that often comes in later grades.
Scores on standardized tests of science tend to drop off after elementary school. The reasons are likely related partly to perceived and real increased abstraction of science in higher grades, but a complete explanation is surely more complex.
Basic Science Concepts are Everywhere for Students to Explore
Science is a subject that is omnipresent. If teachers wish, they can have a short science demonstration every day that takes only a few minutes and reinforces standards. For example, weather is a common elementary standard and it offers endless opportunities for observation. A few examples of daily weather science are:
- Cloud types and associated weather
- Daily graphing of temperatures
- Dew and frost
- Wind direction and speed
- Humidity and its effect on how temperature feels
- Front passages and weather change
- Evaporation rates on different days
Digital weather stations that report outside and inside conditions are available for $75, and transmit weather conditions outside to the classroom for quick analysis.
Science is Fundamentally About Force, Motion, and Energy
Teachers can introduce the concepts below and constantly reinforce them as they relate to standards being addressed. Keep the most basic definitions of force, motion, and energy in mind:
- A force is a push or a pull;
- Motion is the act of changing place or position;
- Energy is the capacity to do work.
If a definition for work is desired: work is the use of a force to move something – work = force X distance, but that’s the type of abstraction that young scientists don’t need to start.
The three fundamentals of science are evident in weather and geology, but not so evident in life sciences until teacher probe a bit deeper. For example, living things move, requiring a force and using energy. Plants demonstrate movement through growth. Plants in the room are great for daily science instruction:
- Seeds exert considerable force to break through soil.
- Notice how plants move toward the main light source.
- Plants need light energy to grow.
Suggestions for Quick Demonstrations can be Found Throughout the School
Look for examples of science inside and outside the school. Better yet, encourage students to do it. The cafeteria uses heat energy to cook food. Steam is evaporated water. Odors are caused by small particles of food drifting through the air. Taste relies on molecules in food stimulating taste buds. Listen for the various types of sound energy and try to explain why they are different to the ear.
Science instruction can be a natural adjunct to daily observations about life. Science is fundamentally about force, motion, and energy. The basic features of science are demonstrated everywhere. Teachers who take advantage of science instruction as it presents itself can help young learners feel more comfortable with scientific abstractions that can become barriers.