By Tracy Lavallee, 4th Grade Teacher and Exemplars Science Consultant
Time. It seems we never have enough time. Not enough time to teach everything we need to teach. And science is usually the subject most affected by this lack of time.
It is easy to put it off and focus on other important things like math and literacy. But in doing so, we are doing a great disservice to our students.
Science education offers a multitude of opportunities for rich, engaging, and interdisciplinary learning. Science is the way of understanding the world in which our students live and scientific literacy is more important now than ever. Science opens up new ways of exploring, investigating, thinking, and explaining. It is hands-on and minds-on. The benefits of science are many: engagement, wonder, curiosity, enthusiasm, excitement, asking questions, solving problems, teamwork, and a desire to learn more. But, how do we find the time for this?
It involves getting creative with time and making the time for science. It involves a shift in our perception from seeing science as an extra, an add-on, to recognizing it is an important and integral part of our instructional program.
How Do We Find the Time?
Simple. We make the time. We think about the big picture of learning. We think about big concepts, big skills, and big ideas. Where does science fit in? Everywhere!
Are you teaching claims and evidence? Making models? Collecting and interpreting data? Doing a reading unit on weather or other non-fiction topics? Practicing writing procedures, opinions or non-fiction? Studying the history of inventions, the gold rush, or current events? The possibilities are endless for ways to integrate science into what we currently are teaching.
If we think about the habits of mind in science – perseverance, communication, questioning, curiosity, openness to new ideas, creativity, reasoning, logic, collaboration, and innovation to name a few – these are truly habits of mind we want our students to develop in all subjects and in life. Science fosters these naturally in our students and enables them to bring these habits of mind into all they do learn and experience.
NGSS can help us find the time. Each performance expectation has key integration components with the Common Core ELA and Math standards.
Exemplars Science can help too. Each science task has interdisciplinary links to social studies, language arts, mathematics, technology, outdoor learning and even music and movement!
Once you find the time, try taking it one step further. Try having science as your main theme, and integrate the rest of your instructional program into that theme. Not only does this help with time, but it allows students to see the inherent connections between all subjects and all things. Exemplars can help you do that as well.
Science doesn’t have to be a separate subject to be fit in when there are a few spare minutes. It can be the heart and soul of our instructional program. As teachers, it is within our power to engage students with all the wonders and phenomena of our natural world. We just have to make the time.