The Science Curriculum
Ms. T’s Teaching Philosophy
My science teaching philosophy is one that encourages experimentation and exploration. The students in all grades learn scientific concepts by direct experience in a hands-on, dynamic way. I feel that my job as a teacher is to act as a facilitator to their learning process, encouraging them to ask questions and allowing them to draw conclusions based on their observations and experimentations.
Science at the pre-kindergarten level is the foundation for future science learning. Scientific inquiry begins with familiarity of all five senses. Creating touch boards and exploring mystery sounds teach young scientists good observation skills. Exploring the world around them with a naturalists’ perspective by studying plants, animals and insects fosters a respect for the environment and an excitement about the natural world.
Science at this early level continues the foundation–building established in pre-kindergarten. Observations of shapes, colors and textures are further explored through use of pattern blocks and creating rainbows with primary colors. The seasons, and air and weather are brought down to a kindergarten level by experimenting with pressure, making paper airplanes and hot air balloons. Introductory concepts of magnetism and electricity are investigated by building basic circuits and discovering what substances are magnetic. The natural world of plants, animals, and insects are explored in greater depth by studying flower parts and learning how organisms interact and depend upon one another for survival .
Scientific investigations begin at this level. Students begin to collect and record their observations and work as a team in the exploratory process. An investigation of the different states of matter and how substances change from one state to another is introduced. Study focuses on the liquid state by classifying and sorting different kinds of liquids, mixing them together and mixing solids and liquids together. Connection to the natural world through the study of invertebrates, particularly insects and arachnids, allows students to investigate adaptation and compare organisms and their environments. Motion and the force of gravity, potential and kinetic energy are explored through acceleration of hot wheels cars down ramps and building marble roller coasters. Understanding the process of weathering and erosion and the breakdown of materials in the natural world is investigated by observing sand and pebbles under microscopes, crushing rocks with hammers and tumbling them in canisters.
The concepts of measuring in length, mass, volume and time are added into scientific investigations while continuing to work independently and as a member of a cooperative team. Further investigation of liquids involves dissolution of solids into a liquid and predicting the outcome of separating a dissolved solid from a liquid. In depth study of one of our five senses, hearing is investigated by exploring how the ear works and what sound is. Creating instruments, playing with tuning forks, singing and building models of resonance give students a tactile way of exploring sound waves, frequency and resonance. Life cycles of plants and animals are explored in depth through direct observation of invertebrates and plants undergoing physical changes as a process of life. Connecting the students to habitats and ecosystems that are in close proximity to their homes is fostered by exploring the near shore tide pool environment.
Students at the third grade level really begin to observe animal behavior by creating small aquatic and terrestrial habitats. These small ecosystems also reinforce the concept of the interconnectedness of organisms within an environment and the need for checks and balances within that system. As students gain an understanding of the uniqueness of our planet, the sun, moon, stars and the greater universe are explored through stories and legends, building planetary models and exploring constellations in a planetarium. The properties of light, reflection and refraction are explored using shadow puppets, building kaleidoscopes and manipulating lenses and prisms. Critical thinking skills, working cooperatively and testing hypotheses are explored in constructing and designing structures such as bridges.
An introduction to elements, molecules and the periodic table creates an understanding that matter is made up of a finite list of elements that combine in many ways to form the substances around us. Matter is investigated on the molecular level by studying the unique properties of water through open-ended experiments in surface tension and bubble-making and using scientific instruments to measure density of liquids. Students are encouraged to ask many questions and to test their ideas freely within the structure of an experiment. A look at the water cycle through a cooperative mural project builds an understanding of the natural processes of the earth and how dependent organisms are on the limited amount of fresh water available. The effects of pollution are addressed by direct observation of a small model habitat. Water quality tests and exploration of filtration methods touch on the ideas of responsibility and caring for the environment. Students explore the forces of electricity and magnetism by constructing circuits, switches, building electromagnets and building small electric cars. The concepts of problem solving and critical thinking skills are highly stressed. The dynamic nature of the earth is investigated through the study of the rock cycle, creating table-top seismographs, building volcanoes and exploring fossils from long ago.
The science curriculum at this level is a stepping stone to middle-school lab-based science. Students are expected to engage in scientific discussions and use microscopes and other lab equipment competently and safely. In depth study of scientific concepts is brought home through projects such as model building of the sun and researching an element from the periodic table. The scientific method is introduced through experiments with solar energy and creating solar ovens. Exploring mixtures and solutions reinforces the ideas of variables and controls in an experiment and formulating conclusions based on experimental observation. The concept of work and energy is investigated through experiments with simple machines and the construction and engineering of catapults and slingshot gliders and rockets. The inner workings of organisms are looked at on the cellular level by using high-powered microscopes, modeling and the dissection of both animal eyes and hearts. A thorough discussion of the human body and how it changes and reproduces is explored by building model lungs, measuring heart rate, simulating the digestion process and detailed open-forum discussion. One of the most engaging and independent projects for science students at the fifth grade level is successful completion of a science fair project and the opportunity to present it to the school and city community.