Three Ideas for Teaching Science to Elementary Students
The term “science” is one that encompasses a broad world of phenomena and events such as weather, the solar system, animal and plant life and more. And while students will surely explore these niche aspects of science as they mature in the K-12 school system, at the elementary level it’s the job of the teacher to essentially introduce science and some of its categories to the student. This is best done through visual, hands-on activities that allow students to observe and analyze a particular phenomenon, while at the same time getting some entertainment out of it.
That’s right, at the elementary level, teachers should focus on making science fun for students. This helps students develop an interest in the school subject. Here are some science teaching ideas elementary that teachers can use in the classroom:
One key focus at the elementary level should be teaching students the scientific method. That is, problem, hypothesis, experiment, evaluation and conclusion. Specifically, the scientific method is an organized way to observe specific phenomena and learn by experimenting with it. There are a variety of experiments teachers can carry out with their students in the classroom, ranging from simple to more advanced. Elementary school teachers, however, should lean more toward simple experiments. Common examples of science experiments include determining objects that either sink or float, building a classroom volcano or analyzing static electricity.
Teachers should make sure to follow each step of the scientific method with each experiment and get students to be as involved as possible with helping to formulate a hypothesis and help to solve the problem or question at hand. The more involved students are in the process, the more likely they are to retain the information following the experiment. Teachers should also consider having the students write out and document the steps of the scientific method as the project progresses. This encourages students to formulate their own personal opinions and come to their own conclusions, whereas in a group, they may fall back on the work of their peers.
One way to get students more involved and enthusiastic about science is to host a classroom science fair where each student is tasked with creating a science project to demonstrate some sort of scientific phenomenon (teachers should approve all projects before the student gets to work). Some common examples of science fair projects are dioramas of the solar system, demonstrating on a scale model how far each planet is away from the sun, demonstrating photosynthesis in plants or, as mentioned in the previous section, building a volcano to demonstrate the flow of lava and how pressure builds up over time, causing eruptions.
Teachers should encourage parents to help their children with these projects. On the day of the science fair, teachers should also consider including some fun activities such as a project contest where a panel of guest judges rate the best projects. Additionally, teachers should ensure that each student has an opportunity to present his/her project to the class and explain what their project demonstrates.
There’s plenty of science to be seen in nature and kids like being outdoors, so why not arrange outdoor lesson plans that demonstrate science in the natural world? For instance, teachers can take their students on a field trip to a nature center and have a professional explain some of the natural phenomena and how it pertains to plants and animals. Another idea is to embark on a nature hike with students through a wooded area, pointing out phenomena along the way, whether it be how much more vegetation there is in sunlit area compared to dark forested areas, or taking samples of pond water for organisms.
Of course, learning about science in nature does not have to extend outside of the classroom. Teachers can keep tadpoles present in the classroom and allow students to observe them transforming into frogs. The same logic can be applied to caterpillars and butterflies. Setting up a terrarium with various types of plant life or planting seeds and observing them grow over time are other activities that teachers can use as lesson plans for science.