While there are indeed many teachers/schools/districts that have stellar programs, science in the elementary classroom is often relegated to Friday afternoons or it may be taught alternating with social studies. There are several reasons given for why that happens:
• The science test doesn’t carry much weight in the overall school score.
• Teachers feel they have inadequate science knowledge.
• There is not enough money to buy equipment and supplies.
• There is not enough time in the schedule.
The last three reasons have been around since the 60s. How do we change that? We all know that we need to be scientifically literate in order to make wise decisions in our lives.
Most of the reasons on the list are things I can’t help you with. However, I do want to make a small contribution toward your equipment and supplies needs by showing you how to help students make their own equipment. In doing this, I can not only help you, but also help your students. I think you will also find that students take better care of their own equipment than they do of the equipment found in kits.
When students make their own equipment, they experience the equipment in a different way than they do if they merely use what’s provided them. Let’s start with a meter tape. Copy it on various colors of paper. Give each student a copy to cut out and tape together. The process of making their own meter tape emphasizes that the meter tape is used to measure length. After all, they are taping sections together to make a long measuring tool. Note length and long. (So often students don’t know which tools to choose when measuring an object. The measuring instrument must possess the attribute being measured!) Once the meter tape is taped together, gather the meter tapes and run them through the laminator. They’re easy to cut out just by zipping your scissors to separate them. Now each student has his/her own measuring tape for the entire year. The various colors help students when measuring distances greater than a meter. They have a great color visual that helps them to establish a mental benchmark for the length of a meter.
Another benefit is that students note that the centimeter is the unit that is repeated along the meter tape. When they have to convert measurements within a system, the personal meter tape helps them note that there are 100 centimeters in a meter, 1000 millimeters in a meter, and 10 millimeters in a centimeter. All for the price of—FREE!
The next make-your-own-equipment offering is a graduated strip that fits on 9-oz plastic cups. Run the copy of the strips on transparency film and have each student tape a strip to the outside of a cup. For the most part, this will relieve you of having to buy or gather graduated cylinders for measuring liquids. Note that the markings on the strip are 20-mL increments. Also note that they are not evenly spaced. Wonder why? Perhaps it’s because the cup is slanted. The unevenly spaced increments provide fodder for a great classroom discussion about estimating volumes that are not given in 20-mL units.
While these graduated cups are not free, the classroom cost is the cost of the plastic cups.
Please share your ideas about inexpensive equipment and supplies. Let’s not make that a barrier to great science learning.
Hi, my name is Betty Cordel. My passion for hands-on math and science developed as a classroom teacher. Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go! is so apropos to my life’s experiences as a result of AIMS. I am now a writer, editor, presenter of workshops, and an advocate for hands-on teaching and learning.