January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

My First Science Conference…How Did I End Up Here? Reflections of a Non-Science Person Teaching Elementary Science

Posted: Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

by Cheryl Romig

OK, so here’s my dirty laundry. I actually chose my major in college based on the number of science classes I would have to take. I can vividly remember lying on the dorm floor, college course catalog spread out in front of my freshman year, counting science classes and crossing off potential majors if I had to take more than two. That was my limit… two classes in four years would surely send me over the edge. 

Fast forward to my first year teaching in Elk Grove. In walks the elementary science specialist to tell me he’d be teaching my 5th grade class once a week. Here’s me doing the happy dance and having that feeling that my students would be OK… Superman Science Guy was going to save us all!

But then, somewhere along the way I had two kids and there is nothing that becomes more obvious when raising children than their natural curiosity about ALL things. They wanted to know STUFF. They wanted to touch it and smell it and eat it and talk about it.

So, when I reentered the teaching profession last year as a third grade teacher sans the science specialist on call, I knew I had to do better. I knew that I had to make my curriculum more interesting for students and that by making it relevant, we would all learn more. But what does someone who’s scared of science do? I started small. Really small. And, since I knew nothing, I did what anyone in my shoes would do: I attended a science workshop – my first science anything ever! It was fun, it was engaging, and I had no idea what the science behind any of it was. But I learned something really motivating: I learned that I don’t have to know everything. I just have to know a little and the rest of my job is to make my kids want to know more! I have to take the risk of losing a bit of control over my classroom while my students engage, explore, and create their own explanations for whatever phenomenon is presented.

I returned to my classroom, Zippo lighter in hand, and popped some regular air-filled balloons. Then I filled one with water and practically set the thing on the flame, nothing happened! The kids were amazed. They couldn’t believe it. They clapped and cheered and oohed and aahed and I was hooked. These precious little eight year olds actually thanked me… thanked ME for teaching science.

The crazy thing was that it happened again. We made Insta-snow and this time I added a hypothesis. What did they think would happen if we added water to these little flakes? It was literally Christmas in October, more cheers, and more thank yous. The next month we tried science journals… adding procedures, then conclusions, then variables. We grew plants using all manner of things… cola, Tabasco sauce, dad’s multivitamins… and made predictions about what would happen.

I was hooked on how much fun we were having and how excited students were about school. So, when I saw the announcement for the California Science Education Conference I thought three things: 1) I wonder what I could learn, 2) I cannot believe I am even considering this! and 3) Why didn’t I do this before??

The California Science Education Conference was just what I needed to keep my enthusiasm going. It was another way for me to connect with others who are also trying to figure out science in our own little classroom worlds. It made me realize that I am not alone! What I loved most, though, was seeing just how many scientists and mentors are out there wanting to help all of us do a great job! All we have to do is take those first few steps. It’s been such a transforming journey, but I now know that I can teach science, and it has most definitely become the highlight of my school day!

Cheryl Romig is a CSTA member. She teaches 3rd grade at Sutter’s Mill Elementary School in the Gold Trail Union School District. 

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.

6 Responses

  1. Bravo for her to take the leap! Kids love science and after the initial risk, the teacher becomes as hooked as the kids!

  2. I wish my kids had Ms. Romig as their teacher. She sounds phenomenal!! Keep up the good work and enthusiasm….

  3. I enjoyed reading this article. Wish I had this science teacher when I was going to school. Brava to you for making science fun and interesting to your students.

  4. Exceptional story from an exceptional teacher. No exceptions.

  5. Ms. Romig’s enthusiasm for science is palpable! Thank you for sharing your journey.

  6. Recalling my time with Mrs. Romig as one of her former principals, I could see the excitement bubbling around her from just reading her article. Sharing her honest and delightful experiences about teaching science will surely inspire other teachers to want to venture out into more science in their classrooms. Hip, Hip, Hooray for you Cheryl!

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