January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Elementary Science: What Is It? Part I

Posted: Friday, October 1st, 2010

Tim Williamson

“It is perilous to generalize about anything in the U.S. education system—quality varies enormously from classroom to classroom—but science has long been a poor stepchild to mathematics and reading. One report noted that science instruction in the early grades ‘occurs sporadically and rarely engages children in practices that encourage rigorous and reflective science learning.’  Science is high on the list of subjects that early-grade teachers feel ill prepared to teach.”

This quote from Scientific American Magazine, “Start Science Sooner,” by the editors, February 18, 2010, is a perfect introduction for a series of articles I will be sharing in the next few issues of e-CCS.

One of the major perks of being the CSTA president is being able to travel throughout the state and participate in informative dialog with many of California’s master science educators.  One of the “California Science Education Masters” I have had the privilege of working with for numerous years is my dear friend Maureen Allen from Orange County.  Maureen gives new meaning to the word “energy”!  She has been a dedicated member of CSTA for many, many years and is always ready to pitch-in and work with our state’s science educators, sharing her vast knowledge of science content, pedagogy, and curriculum development.  She has been retired from the Orange County Office of Education for a few years.  Retirement has not slowed her down a bit.  She continues to share her love and knowledge of teaching science to everyone she meets.  In my opinion, beside the definition of “science educator” in the dictionary, there should be a picture of Maureen Allen!

I asked her to share her feelings regarding the components a good elementary science classroom.  I’m sharing her response verbatim.

What makes a good elementary science classroom?  Ideas shared by Maureen Allen

(Or,  What would a science rich classroom look like?)

The answer to this question is very basic and most obvious.  It is not about the size of the classroom, the materials, the number of computers, budget per student, or any of the elements that make up a classroom.  Although these things are all very important, the most critical element of a really good science classroom is the TEACHER.

A TEACHER who loves and values science is the key to a science-rich classroom.

It is the TEACHER, who fosters CURIOSITY and EXCITEMENT for learning among his or her students.

It is the TEACHER, who encourages students to “tinker” with materials, ask questions, and seek answers by experimenting and gathering information for themselves.

A TEACHER, who may pose a question that sets the students off on a journey that they never would have imagined or experienced before.

A TEACHER, who is naturally curious themselves and is not afraid to venture forth into the realm of discovery WITH their students.

A teacher, who gives his or her students a positive environment, a place in the room to experiment, grow plants, build circuits, nurture animals, and even make a little mess conducting THEIR experiments to prove THEIR hypothesis.

It is the teacher who can weave all the different curricular areas together and take advantage of that “teachable moment” so the students see how all the bits and pieces of learning fit together and make sense to them.  A teacher like this can make MAGIC HAPPEN!

When one walks into a classroom where the teacher loves and values science one might see:

students working in groups on a variety of projects or activities, entering information in their subject notebooks, and talking quietly about their projects in a spirit of excitement and enthusiasm.

Around the edges of the room, one might see one or more, on-going, science projects with students engaged in recording their observations or measurements in their notebooks.  Whether they are measuring plants, sketching different stages of the grain beetle, or trying to make a bulb light , it is evident that the students are engaged in their activities and that learning is in progress.

—Taking center stage in the classroom would be a large bulletin board that has a large pictorial drawing that was originally drawn by the teacher, as he or she introduced the new unit of study.  The picture would be labeled with the key academic language, and realia, pictures, and items of student work would be strategically stapled around the edges of the pictorial, thus providing evidence that this unit is on-going and evolving, as the students study, experience, and learn more.

—Off to the side would be an area that has many different manipulatives for both science and mathematics, readily available for quick student use.  Balance scales, gram mass sets, meter sticks, rulers, calibrated cylinders, out on the shelves, in plain sight, ready for that spontaneous moment to quantify their observations.

—The science kit that accompanies their unit of study is visible, opened, and ready for use at any time.  Trays of materials are piled off to the side, in anticipation of the next lesson.

On the blackboard would be the daily schedule with time set aside for SCIENCE along with all the other areas of the curriculum.

And over the door is a sign for all the students to see that reads:

“I can wait to see what WE will DISCOVER and LEARN today! —Lucky Me!  Your TEACHER!”


These are words of wisdom from a true professional!  Thank you, Maureen, for sharing these insights and ideas.

Earlier I mentioned one of the perks of being the CSTA president.  These perks are numerous.  This position as an almost six-year member of the CSTA board of governors, has opened doors and given me opportunities I never could have imagined.  You, too, can share these benefits.  CSTA has numerous positions opening for its board of directors including…

  • President-Elect
  • Secretary
  • 2-Year College Director
  • Middle/Jr.High School Director
  • Primary (K-2) Director
  • Informal Science Education Director
  • Region 1 Director*
  • Region 3 Director*

The Personal Characteristics for these positions are… Possess strong leadership skills; possess a high energy level; demonstrate a willingness to make the necessary time commitment to hold a critical leadership position in the association; possess integrity, poise, adaptability, flexibility, a sense of humor, and an appreciation and respect for diversity; possess the ability to create a team effort, build consensus, motivate and involve others, and delegate authority.

In my travels around the state I have met so many qualified people for these positions who possess all of the above characteristics.  Now is the time!  Please apply for a board position!  The minimal time commitments for these positions are nothing compared to the numerous educational opportunities, friendships, and, above all, the ability to share and further develop your personal leadership characteristics.  We need your dedication!  We need your science education knowledge!  We need your leadership!  We need you!

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Accelerating into NGSS – A Statewide Rollout Series Now Accepting Registrations

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Are you feeling behind on the implementation of NGSS? Then Accelerating into NGSS – the Statewide Rollout event – is right for you!

If you have not experienced Phases 1-4 of the Statewide Rollout, or are feeling behind with the implementation of NGSS, the Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout will provide you with the greatest hits from Phases 1-4!

Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout is a two-day training geared toward grade K-12 academic coaches, administrators, curriculum leads, and teacher leaders. Check-in for the two-day rollout begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Day One and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Day Two.

Cost of training is $250 per attendee. Fee includes all materials, continental breakfast, and lunch on both days. It is recommended that districts send teams of four to six, which include at least one administrator. Payment can be made by check or credit card. If paying by check, registration is NOT complete until payment has been received. All payments must be received prior to the Rollout location date you are attending. Paying by credit card secures your seat at time of registration. No purchase orders accepted. No participant cancellation refunds.

For questions or more information, please contact Amy Kennedy at akennedy@sjcoe.net or (209) 468-9027.



MARCH 28-29, 2018
Host: San Mateo County Office of Education
Location: San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City

APRIL 10-11, 2018
Host: Orange County Office of Education
Location: Brandman University, Irvine

MAY 1-2, 2018
Host: Tulare County Office of Education
Location: Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia

MAY 3-4, 2018
Host: San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools
Location: West End Educational Service Center, Rancho Cucamonga

MAY 7-8, 2018
Host: Sacramento County Office of Education
Location: Sacramento County Office of Education Conference Center and David P. Meaney Education Center, Mather

JUNE 14-15, 2018
Host: Imperial County Office of Education
Location: Imperial Valley College, Imperial

Presented by the California Department of Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association/County Offices of Education, K-12 Alliance @WestEd, California Science Project, and the California Science Teachers Association.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

The Teaching and Learning Collaborative, Reflections from an Administrator

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Kelly Patchen

My name is Mrs. Kelly Patchen, and I am proud to be an elementary assistant principal working in the Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) at Louis Bohn and McKinley Elementary Schools. Each of the schools I support are Title I K-5 schools with about 450 students, a diverse student population, a high percentage of English Language Learners, and students living in poverty. We’re also lucky to be part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative with the K-12 Alliance. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

Posted: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

CSTA is pleased to announce that we are now accepting proposals for 90-minute workshops and three- and six-hour short courses for the 2018 California Science Education Conference. Workshops and short courses make up the bulk of the content and professional learning opportunities available at the conference. In recognition of their contribution, members who present a workshop or short course receive 50% off of their registration fees. Click for more information regarding proposals, or submit one today by following the links below.

Short Course Proposal

Workshop Proposal Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

CSTA’s New Administrator Facebook Group Page

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Holly Steele

The California Science Teachers Association’s mission is to promote high-quality science education, and one of the best practice’s we use to fulfill that mission is through the use of our Facebook group pages. CSTA hosts several closed and moderated Facebook group pages for specific grade levels, (Elementary, Middle, and High School), pages for district coaches and science education faculty, and the official CSTA Facebook page. These pages serve as an online resource for teachers and coaches to exchange teaching methods, materials, staying update on science events in California and asking questions. CSTA is happy to announce the creation of a 6th group page called, California Administrators Supporting Science. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Find Your Reason to Engage

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Jill Grace

I was recently reflecting on events in the news and remembered that several years ago, National Public Radio had a story about a man named Stéphane Hessel, a World War II French resistance fighter, Nazi concentration camp survivor, and contributor to the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The story focused on a book he had published, Time for Outrage (2010).

In it, Hessel makes the argument that the worst attitude is indifference:

“Who is in charge; who are the decision makers? It’s not always easy to discern. We’re not dealing with a small elite anymore, whose actions we can clearly identify. We are dealing with a vast, interdependent world that is interconnected in unprecedented ways. But there are unbearable things all around us. You have to look for them; search carefully. Open your eyes and you will see. This is what I tell young people: If you spend a little time searching, you will find your reasons to engage. The worst attitude is indifference. ‘There’s nothing I can do; I get by’ – adopting this mindset will deprive you of one of the fundamental qualities of being human: outrage.  Our capacity for protest is indispensable, as is our freedom to engage.”

His words make me take pause when I think of the status of science in the United States. A general “mistrust” of science is increasingly pervasive, as outlined in a New Yorker article from the summer of 2016. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.