By Gina Kennedy

By Gina Kennedy

Tales of a "Non-Science" Science Teacher! How to be A Great Science Teacher Without a Scientific Mind!

 Let's face it, one of the dilemmas of being an elementary teacher is that many times you will end up in a self-contained classroom teaching "FOUR" subjects.  Being the heroic, "jack of all trades" teachers that we are, we dive in and make the best of a difficult situation.

       However, that doesn't always mean we like it.  My name is "Gina" and I do not like teaching science.  The first few years of teaching I pretended to be a an enthusiastic "Professor of Science",  I even bought a Science Lab coat at an educational store to add enthusiasm and a realistic touch to our classroom science "vibe". 

As I approached my fourth year of classroom teaching, I determined not only did I not like teaching science, but I really wasn't that good at it.  I was a dedicated,creative hard working teacher in every other way, but I really disliked teaching anything science because it wasn't my passion.  My husband is a true technology geek, we have every modern electrical gadget in our home and when he excitedly tries to show me how it works, I am thinking a root canal would be less painful.  Simply, most things science are of no interest to me, but for eight hours a day I was a part-time professor of science to fifth graders.  What to do?  My first option was to beg my principal to departmentalize, (and that did work many years), or just "give it the old college try" and do the best I could.

      Throughout all of my years in the classroom I lived by one motto, "Teach your students like you'd want your child to be taught."  Therefore, I knew I still needed to provide the most incredible science program that I possibly could.  I decided that there had to be a way to make science interesting and "painless".  

     First and foremost, If there was a way to bring people into my classroom to add to that incredible science program, I would do it.  
For example:
Nutrition Unit: A field trip to the lunchroom, I had the school cooks teach my students about state nutrition guidelines and how they create healthy menus.

Rock Unit: A man from the "Gem and Mineral Society" spoke to my class every year and even brought his extensive rock collection.  Gem and Mineral Societies exist all over the United States in most cities and they have a "speaker program" already in existence.

Energy Unit: I had a wonderful man from the local energy plant come to our classroom every year and he explained all of the forms of energy to my students and provided several student handouts with activities that his company used for their educational programs. Almost all energy companies already have educational programs and supplies in place and ready to present to schools.

Adaptations and Habitats: The "Humane Society" has a "Speakers Bureau" in every chapter that was specifically created to send speakers for free to schools and organizations. I had a different speaker every year and they were all fascinating and the students loved them.

Solar System: Who would have "thunk", but there is an organization called "The American Association of Amateur Astronomers" with chapters throughout the United States. I had two amazingly knowledgeable women present about a broad range of topics from astronomy to Saturn.

Earth Studies: Every community has a greenhouse, I had spent plenty of money over the years at our neighborhood landscape center; so they were more than happy to visit our classroom in the winter when they weren't busy and they even brought a few "freebies" for the kids.

More Ideas....

     Always take advantage of "in-house" speakers.  Your school nurse should be able to present about a broad range of health and anatomy topics.  Your maintenance crew can talk about chemicals and safety or how they use different types of simple machines for repairs. They an also show your class the "ins and outs" of the water or heating system in your building and how it works.  

     If you have a local college, they have a science department.  Contact the science department and ask for students to come speak about such things as force, motion, gravity or any physical science topic.  Through my experiences, the smaller colleges were easier to work with, but most colleges have a program in place to got out to the schools.

     Find out who your local and district Science Fair winners are and have them present their experiments to the class.  Most of the winners are quite excited to share their hard work.

Wacky Science Wednesday!

    Turn your classroom into a "Nonfiction" Science Museum".  I had buckets and buckets of science concept books throughout the classroom for easy access.  

   In my class we had "Wacky Science Wednesday" every Wednesday.  In preparation, I would choose twenty classroom science concept books that were "grade level appropriate" and represented a variety of interests.   Each reading group (two students) would choose a book that best suited them.   After reading their book together, they were to complete a specified "nonfiction book report" that included an array of reading text structures and some type of project that they could present to the entire class. Science-language arts integration at its best!  I have several of these "nonfiction" book report templates with projects in my "TPT" store.

Click Here to Purchase!
Click Here to Purchase!
Click Here to Purchase!

Science Articles!
Let's face it, district science materials and textbooks can sometimes be "boring."  The internet has many current science articles appropriate for kids that are much more interesting and relevant.  I would regularly use these articles in my classroom to teach concepts.  There are many "after reading" strategies you can use for follow-up to these articles and I also have a resource designed specifically for a reading response to nonfiction articles in my TPT store.

Click Here to Purchase!

Involving Parents!

    Don't be afraid to involve your parents in your science journey.  Send home an interest letter to see if any of your parents would be interested in presenting to your class about a particular science hobby they may have or to discuss how they use science in their occupation.  One year I had a mother that loved to organize science experiments, she was a tremendous help.  Click HERE to download this "freebie" letter to send home.

Student Led Experiments!
     Without a doubt, what students love most about science, are the "hands-on" experiments. Why not put the students in charge of presenting experiments in addition to your own.  I have to admit some of the students were better prepared in their experiment presentations than I was for a few of mine.  I used to buy every Science Experiment book I could for kids at Half Price Bookstore, online and even at garage sales.  My students always had easy access to all of those books.   I would have the students fill out a science experiment proposal "approval" form if they wanted to present to the class and I have included the link to that "freebie" form HERE

And last!

I was "project based" learning before "project based" learning was cool.  I created projects for every science concept and my students could never get enough.  Most of the projects also integrate important language arts skills and it is a "win, win" situation.  Check out some of those projects in my store: (all sold individually)
Science Enrichment Projects for Every Subject!

I may not have had a "scientific mind", but my students never would have known.  I obviously had a "twinkle in my eye" when I used to each about the Amendments to the Constitution" or a battle from the Civil War.  But overall, my students loved science class and were happy to tell me so.  Providing the ultimate science experiment doesn't have to be draining, worrisome, expensive or even "routine".  Get everyone involved in the process, immerse the students in science literature, provide as much hands-on as possible, hit vocabulary hard and offer an overall well rounded program.



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