High-quality elementary science education is essential for establishing a sound foundation of learning in later grades, instilling a wonder of and enthusiasm for science that lasts a lifetime, and in addressing the critical need for a well-informed citizenry and society. The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) recognizes the importance of effective elementary science education and recommends the involvement of all education stakeholders to provide effective and equitable instruction, materials, environment, and opportunities so that all students may succeed. This document is part of a continuum of school science learning beginning with the NSTA position statement, Early Childhood Science Education (NSTA 2014), and continuing with the NSTA position statement, Science Education for Middle Level Students (NSTA 2016a).
Science learning begins long before children enter formal education. Their innate curiosity about the world and how it works prompts them to independently develop rudimentary forms of scientific investigations and design activities to find answers to their questions and solutions to their problems (NRC 2007). Effective elementary education recognizes and capitalizes on children's intrinsic interest in science and engineering, builds upon the initial concepts and strategies children have acquired, and provides an educational environment that allows those concepts and strategies to expand and deepen.
In many schools and districts, however, elementary science instruction often takes a back seat to math and reading and receives little time in the school day. Many elementary educators do not receive an adequate amount of professional learning to gain the confidence needed to teach science (Horizon Research 2013; McClure et al. 2017).
The release of A Framework for K–12 Science Education (Framework; NRC 2012) provides a new vision for science teaching and learning, and recommends important conceptual shifts in science instruction. NSTA supports this new vision—and its application in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)—and recommends all educators make the transition to three-dimensional teaching and learning (NSTA 2016b, 2018).
NSTA identifies the following key principles to guide effective science learning in the elementary grades:
NSTA provides the following recommendations to support high-quality science education in elementary classrooms.
To support high-quality elementary science learning, NSTA recommends that science educators
To support high-quality elementary science learning, NSTA recommends that administrators and/or curriculum specialists
To support high-quality elementary science learning, NSTA recommends that policy makers
To support high-quality elementary science learning, NSTA recommends that professional development for classroom teachers and preparation for future elementary teachers
To support high-quality elementary science learning, NSTA recommends families support their children's science learning as outlined in the NSTA position statement, Parent Involvement in Science Education (NSTA 2009). This broadly includes
—Adopted by the NSTA Board of Directors, October 2018
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