Newsflash! Elementary school teachers have very little time in their daily schedule allotted for science. We have seen this time shrink over the last 10 years. Some teachers are given 20 minutes wedged in between gym and lunch. Others are expected to satisfy their science content with Science Friday every other week! At a recent conference, I heard a teacher talking to a science vendor about having 17 minutes set aside each day for science and STEM-related activities. Another teacher was envious of the 17 minutes, and two others were appalled. These realities are indicative of the value we place on developing scientifically literate young people in our schools.
Given these restrictions and limitations, savvy teachers are finding ways to extend and expand the time for science. One such extension is to stretch the learning beyond the walls of the classroom and send it home. How can families be encouraged to step in and get involved with student learning? Take-Home Science!
We know the value of engaging families with student learning. According to the NSTA Position Statement for Parent Involvement in Science Learning, “when parents play an active role, their children achieve greater success as learners, regardless of socioeconomic status, ethnic/racial background, or the parents’ own level of education” (PTA 1999; Henderson and Mapp 2002; Pate and Andrews 2006).
This month we take a look at ideas for exploring science and engineering at home. Helping families create a culture of curiosity and wonder with thoughtful suggestions for explorations, connections to literature, ideas for extensions, and opportunities for collaboration and communication will help carve out more time for science in students’ lives.
The idea of take-home science allows parents and guardians to learn about the schools’ curriculum and expectations for science and STEM learning, which supports a deeper level of engagement. Allowing students to develop and expand their natural curiosities by questioning, exploring, sharing claims, gathering data, and communicating findings supported by evidence are all lifelong skills to develop and foster at home.
We can lament the lack of emphasis and time given to science and STEM within the classroom day, or we can find places in the edges of the day to expand and possibly foster robust connections with our students’ families as a resource for learning and developing scientific literacy and wonder. Families and students also need to understand that science engagement is an essential part of being human. While at home, students can learn about physical and chemical changes while measuring and mixing ingredients while cooking or can follow the engineering design process when choosing the best brakes for a rehabilitated bicycle. Helping families link science content and the engineering process into everyday life experiences strengthens and elevates the learning for all.
Keep sharing your ideas for expanding the walls of the classroom and let us know how the suggestions shared in this issue have helped you in your work to find time for science! Let’s keep the dialogue open as we learn what works and what doesn’t work within and beyond the walls of our classrooms.