Two Projects Address Science in Elementary Education


The Science in Early Elementary (SEE) project began work this year to build an elementary science curriculum that is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The research team of Lori Fulton and Brian Lawton has begun to develop a curriculum that starts with activities from CRDG’s award winning Developmental Approaches in Science, Health and Technology (DASH) program and builds on that foundation to address the practices and cross-cutting ideas articulated in the NGSS. They are working with the elementary teachers at ULS to see how teachers interpret the NGSS. As an early step, they are collecting information from teachers about how they see the performance expectations—what the expectations mean to them and how they work with them to determine what students need to know and be able to do in order to meet that expectation. The project is moving forward on two parallel tracks: curriculum development and data collection.

Fulton and learning technology researcher Seungoh Paek also worked with ULS elementary teachers in 2013 to examine the role of digital science notebooks in the elementary curriculum. As a first step, they focused on science notebooks as a learning tool. Teachers and students learned about the role of a notebook in scientific practice as they used them in a manner similar to the way real scientists do. In keeping with the NGSS focus on practices of science and cross-cutting concepts, notebooks are being used to move beyond documenting what students are doing to address explanation, argumentation, and communication as well as bigger ideas such as patterns, modeling, and cause and effect. The next step in the process will be to move to a digital format. Paek’s role was looking at ways the multi-media functions can help young children use the notebook concept. For example, children who are not proficient at writing may be able to record data using drawing, graphics, and other applications. They may also be able to use cameras and voice recordings long before they would be able to record their thoughts in writing. Paek and Fulton will be gathering data on how children use digital science notebooks, looking toward developing something specifically for children in the early elementary grades.