George Lucas Educational Foundation

Is Early Elementary Science Dying?

Is Early Elementary Science Dying?

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With early elementary teachers struggling to find the time to teach science due to the focus on Common Core language arts and math skills, elementary science is being neglected. Schools are commonly putting an emphasis on science education only when students are to complete state assessment testing, traditionally at the 5th grade level.

I think that parents would be interested to know about this decline in science education. With so many parents wanting their kids to be doctors or a scientist searching for a cure for cancer, I think they would see the importance of creating an interest in science at the earliest level.

With the decline of students interested in STEM careers, edtech companies need to create programs focused on igniting a lifelong passion in science at the earliest levels. Programs should incorporates Common Core language arts and maths skills into science lessons which provides teachers more time to focus on teaching science.

I am also finding that many teachers at the K-2nd grade level that would like to teach more science in their classroom are not being financial provided with the funding support needed by the school system to promote STEM at these levels.

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Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

It's not just Science. I worry about the short shrift given to Social Studies as well. An intense focus on reading skills will eventually falter without the background knowledge that Science and Social Studies can provide.

In my school, classes get either 45 minutes a day of Science OR Social Studies.

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Maker Educator, Google Certified Innovator, Dreamer, Doer. Learning experience designer, workshop leader/speaker, author. Stanford #Fablearn Fellow. #GoogleEI

I think it depends on the school. Clearly the pressures to marginalize science and social studies are real and not going away. However some districts do make science a priority, and, when done well, it not only integrates effortlessly with other subjects but makes them more meaningful and relevant. It's up to district leadership and deciding what's most important...just saying!

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

In my school, Science has been cut down considerably and Social Studies is being fully integrated into reading. I don't mind that. However, now Gym, Art, Library, and music will most likely lose 5-10 minutes each so the school can implement an RTI (Response to Intervention) model.

The more I think about it, the more I'm in favor of kids specializing at a younger age. Some students going a math/science track and other Reading/Writing/S.S. I have no idea how it could be done, but I think it's important for kids to be supported in the stuff they're good at earlier in age.

Personally, if i was exposed to the subjects I loved more often earlier in my schooling, I would have appreciated school a bit more.


John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct faculty Antioch University New England, former Elementary Principal

It is sad that many schools are cutting out science and social studies. Even though my science and social studies time has been cut somewhat, I still have enough time built in for both subjects. To help I've developed my science and SS units to include plenty that fits into my language arts and math times. So we still find plenty of time to read, write, and collect data about science topics as well as time for hands on experiments and explorations in nature outside. So I agree it is key that the leadership in a school or district make it a priority to either make time for science, or help educators develop integrated units to help foster scientific thinking.

Amanda's picture

In my experience, the subjects of science and social studies are being squeezed out of the curriculum of the younger grades and this is doing our students a great disservice. If we cannot find the time to fit those subjects in the days of students on a regular basis, then I think we should get creative and find ways to integrate these subjects into the dominant subjects that are being taught, math and reading. This way the students are still getting the basics of these subjects and getting some exposure to them. They love experiments and learning that way. Surely, there are ways to change this and make it work.

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Maker Educator, Google Certified Innovator, Dreamer, Doer. Learning experience designer, workshop leader/speaker, author. Stanford #Fablearn Fellow. #GoogleEI

I agree, Amanda - it's all up to the instructional leader, in my view - or a rouge teacher willing to push the envelope. What do you think?

Amanda's picture

I absolutely agree with you Kevin. I also think that being a rogue teacher who is willing to push the envelope a little is exactly what education needs. Those are the who will will push for the change that is really important in our schools. Education is a field that is always changing and we need to change with it and adapt for our students.

Amanda's picture

Dan, thank you for sharing that article. It ties in very well with this topic. I especially agree with the author in that it is not about practicing the skill of reading but building a framework that students need in order to become better readers.

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