Engaging students in the adventure of exploring God’s creation guides them to learn about the nature of the world around them, and it helps them begin to understand the greatness of God. To be sure, working with students in this capacity is both a thrilling journey and a daunting task for elementary teachers. With meeting the demands of teaching core subjects such as language arts, math, and Bible, other subjects such as science can easily be given less focus. Yet, students gain much insight about themselves when they study science. They become aware of how they learn, how their knowledge in one subject area fits into another, and how their world is much bigger than what is in their immediate vicinity.
Knowing the benefit of encouraging students to explore their world—to see how it works and why it works in the way it does—launches you, the teacher, into the realm of a myriad possibilities. Where do you start first? How do you decide what and when students need to study the different aspects of life science, physical science, and earth and space science? And how can you best tie in science to the other concepts you are teaching? The best starting point is to follow the science educational standards your school has selected. Your school may have designed its curriculum map around NSES (National Science Education Standards), NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards), your state’s science standards, or a combination of all the above. Begin there. If your students are reading Charlotte’s Web, tie in the study of arachnids and mammals. Is your state a point of study this year? Be sure to connect its geological features and weather patterns during class time for science. Have students make mathematical conclusions during all study of science as they marvel at the invisible qualities God has included in creation, such as gravitational force, magnetism, and the frequencies of light and sound.
Begin with what students already know. Let their prior knowledge be the hook to interest them in the next concept of science. Demonstrate with a quick activity something that causes them to become more curious to the point of asking questions. To quote Albert Einstein, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.”1 Connect students to the topic by providing multiple opportunities for hands-on learning. It is not enough for a student to read about how to ride a bike in order to learn how to do it. She must sit on the seat, grab the handlebars, and push the pedals at just the right speed, all while maintaining balance to better comprehend the connections of all actions necessary to being a cyclist. This is the case for your students. They must observe and engage. This will lead to great discussions, which will enrich their understanding even more.
Enabling your students to explore their world does not have to be costly or time-consuming. Many household and classroom items serve greater use in investigations and engineering designs. A plastic bag, string, and a washer can easily be assembled to become a parachute as students accept the challenge to design one that works well. Encourage them to explore the properties of salt by tasking them to float an egg in salt water and to create salt crystals on a string. Help them understand the stomach’s function by giving them an oil-lined balloon filled with a few oats or small pieces of bread followed by some white vinegar. Let them see how food is broken down by the acid and draw conclusions.
Also, as you teach, practice asking formative assessment questions to guide students in their comprehension of the topic. Are your students able to verbalize what they are learning beyond giving definitions for science terms? Are they evaluating the science concepts correctly, tying commonalities together to express deeper understanding? If not, address any misconceptions or gaps in their knowledge to get them back on track. And always endeavor to point students to the awesomeness of God’s creation and His very nature. How delightful it is that He gave mankind the ability to explore and understand in great detail the things that He has made!
Many elementary teachers feel ill-equipped to teach science, so they often revert to the very familiar and often overused life science lessons. They long for a high-quality science curriculum that is easy to use and easy to follow. Each lesson in Purposeful Design Publications Elementary Science series includes a content section to give just the right amount of background information to boost the teachers’ science knowledge and to infuse them with science teaching confidence. Specific materials lists, preparation tips, differentiated instruction ideas, biblical integration, and multiple investigations and engineering design processes for hands-on learning are all a part of the instruction. Plus, tests and their answer keys are included for summative assessments. And, in the new third edition being released in spring 2021, each lesson shows the NSES and NGSS standards being met and provides both a content and a biblical worldview objective. This comprehensive, well-researched, Scripture-based curriculum empowers teachers to provide students the science foundations they will need for years to come. We invite you to explore it now.