Post 1: The Purpose of Science Education in Elementary School by Alexandra Lagadinos
Written by Alexandra Lagadinos, December 2016
As science and technology continues to evolve, it has created a society that we as humans can no longer separate ourselves from.
We have created a co-dependent relationship between humans and technology whether it be our phones or GPS, the advances in science that make it possible for us to fight cancers and find cures for other diseases, or even cars that can now drive themselves. Science and technology are around us all the time which is why it’s imperative to introduce elementary students to these topics at the elementary level so young students can have the opportunity to develop strong problem-solving skills that equips them with the skills they will need in order to successfully participate in a scientific and technological world.
In order to successfully engage students and get them more excited about learning about science, it’s important to know what good elementary science teaching looks like. Gone are the days where the teachers would ask their students to read straight from a dry and boring textbook and memorize scientific vocabulary terms. Today, the teaching of science is mainly focused around inquiry-based learning, meaning that each lesson or unit should begin with a central question that can then be driven by curiosity which leads to students to discover and learn through a series of class discussions and hands-on experiments and activities. By providing this type of learning environment for students, students are able to explore science on their own and make new discoveries as they go.
A great way to easily make sure you’re integrating inquiry-based learning experiences when teaching science is by using the 5Es teaching and learning model. The Five Es is a simple inquiry-based teaching and learning model that allows students to use their own background knowledge to develop explanations for their personal experiences of scientific phenomena. The five phases of this 5E model include: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate.
The “Engage” phase prompts teachers to begin their lessons by mentally engaging their students with a specific question, demonstration, or activity. It should capture the students’ interest and provide them with an opportunity to express what they may already know about the topic and also helps them to make connections between what they know and the new ideas being talked about.
The “Explore” phase should provide students with the opportunity to carry out hands-on activities where they can further explore the new concept or skill. It is during this phase where students can tackle phenomenon and describe it in their own words. By doing so, students can come up with a common set of experiences that they can then use to help make sense of the new concept or skills.
The “Explain” phase is to be used after the students have had the chance to explore the new concept or skill on their own. This phase gives the teacher an opportunity to use the students’ concepts and terms to develop explanations for the phenomenon they have experiences.
The “Elaborate” phase provides students with the opportunity to apply their new knowledge about what they just learned to new situations. It is during this time that students should also be discussing and comparing their ideas with each other. By doing so, students can develop a deeper understanding of the concept and a greater use of the skill itself.
Lastly, the “Evaluate” phase provides a time for students to reflect on what they learned. Teachers can also have students provide evidence for their understanding and skills through either formative or summative assessments.
Science no longer needs to be a cut-and-dry topic that scares students away by the time they reach middle school. Instead, it should be taught to spark students’ interests and provide them with opportunities to participate in more hands-on activities and discussions that help develop their higher-order thinking and problem-solving skills. While getting students excited about science doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll all become scientists and engineers when they grow up, it at least means that if they excel in science throughout school, they’ll have a much higher chance of developing a strong ability to think critically which will in turn help them become successful members of our society, no matter what career path they choose for themselves.