Saturday, March 26, 2011

Diving into early elementary science curriculum

I've gotten a tad involved with the kindergarten science curriculum in our district. I know a little bit about science, and a little bit about kids.

Looking at much of the commercial stuff available, a lot of well meaning (and well paid) folks know little about either. It's time to put these well meaning folks who make a lot of money somewhere else. Maybe Mars

There's a lot of awful stuff out there. It's eye-catching, and well produced, and quite entertaining, but it's awful. Really awful.

Energy and matter are very difficult concepts to master. It's OK if a 6 year old doesn't know much about Newton's Laws. What is not OK is teaching nonsense that will make it more difficult for the child to grasp science later.

Here's something from PearsonEducaton, written for 1st grade:

Where's the science?

I start each year with a classroom of sophomores who think energy means to move something. By the time I get them, this misconception is seared into millions of neuronal connections. Teaching crap is worse than teaching nothing at all.

(The gratuitous "Go Green" symbol on a page feigning science about one of the most ecologically destructive
inventions ever might, though, make a good lesson on irony. Or cynicism.)

I will be posting a variety of seemingly simple ideas for teaching young'uns some science. The goal is not to produce Junior Scientists® rattling off the scientific names of obscure penguins like some unfortunate child with Asperger's syndrome. I just want to help kids see the natural world.

I do not have a particular beef with Pearson--it came up first when I Googled elementary science instructional materials.
If you look at other companies, there seems to be equal opportunity awfulness.


Joshua M. Rosenberg said...

You're an inspiration sire.

I'm a first year 10th grade Biology teacher in NC. I just made this website: for my courses, using iWeb. Feel free to be the first to comment on my blog.

Josh Rosenberg

doyle said...

Dear Joshua,

Occasional inspiration for some, as I am by others, but hardly a sire.

I poked around your blog, enjoyed much of it, but I was not clear on how to respond to your posts. I tried clicking on the ZAP button.

Call me a Luddite....

Anonymous said...

I do blame Pearson. And the others. They have put making money above educating the populace. To do this, they have a vested interest in keeping people ignorant, and they have done so. It would not cost any more to produce materials that were actually correct, but the deliberate choice to miseducate has been made. I think this is immoral at best.
Even if they plead ignorance, they are then operating under false pretenses.

Mary Ann Reilly said...

Love the idea of focusing on science process skills in K-2 through experiential learning. Learning to think like a scientist, to be an a observer seems far more important than the stuff you highlighted. I am getting ready to do a post on fab science (and developmentally appropriate) books for kids. Will let u know when I finish the post. I once matched science tradebooks to each science cpi in the NJCCCS. Will update and post.

doyle said...

Dear Anonymous,

I blame "and the others," too. We're in the midst of one of the greatest transfer of wealth in this land--the ultra-rich are destroying what matters.

Which might not matter, I suppose, if you live in a gated community.

Whether it's a deliberate effort to mis-educate, or just corporate laziness, or something else, no way to tell at my level. Any teacher teaching anything to his children, however, has an ethical responsibility to know his content.

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to see how bad much of this stuff is....

doyle said...

Dear Mary Ann,

It seems obvious, but apparently it's not. I look forward to your post.

If you want to teach someone how to paint, you give them a paintbrush, and teach them to paint.

You know this, of course, but a lot of people intimately involved in public (and I suspect private ) education act otherwise.

Unknown said...

Doyle, your blog is so encouraging for a new science teacher like myself!

I am a first year chemistry/biology teacher. I have always had a huge interest in early childhood science education although for me, working with older students fits my style. I am interested however, in any suggestions you may have for science teachers who are interested in collaborating with elementary school teachers. I have a 1st grade daughter and the lack of science in the classroom is sadly evident.

doyle said...

Dear mv59%,

Thanks for the words of support.

We just started a K-12 cross-curricular science committee in our district--we're developing a wiki page. Once it looks like we have something substantial, we'll share it.

We're still trying to figure out how to teach science AND meet the guidelines set by the state. We can either teach science (which is what we want to do) or teach about science, which is not nearly the same thing.

Anonymous said...

I'd be curious to hear what you think of the work of Dr Nebel, who wrote a science curriculum for early elementary grades, if you get a chance to take a peak.

I'll be following - looking forward to it!