Essays on Teacher Preparation by Workshop Participants
Nederland Elementary School
As an elementary school teacher, I can only speak to what is happening in Science Education in the elementary school setting. Science has never been a strong subject in the elementary school. This is not limited to Earth Science education, but includes all strands of science. I think this is because few elementary teachers are trained in science. We take general methods courses, which might address the teaching of science, but this doesn't really provide the expertise needed to teach a content area. Not having the comfort level necessary in this area, elementary teachers often avoid teaching science or choose to devote very little time to the subject. In the Boulder Valley School District, there has been an attempt to address this problem. The District purchased FOSS (Full Option Science Systems) that are kits designed to teach a variety of science topics. These kits have greatly helped teachers. They are well designed and developmentally appropriate.
However, in recent years, things have gotten worse. Elementary school science has been on the decline due to legislation around literacy. The demands of documenting student progress in reading and writing as well as preparation for tests leave very little time for anything else. Public schools across the nation tell the same story. Looking more closely at schools that have been successful in raising test scores, it has been discovered that they no longer teach science or social studies. The political and monetary pressure of producing higher tests scores has created a lop-sided education for our young. In my district, I hear teachers saying they just don't have enough time to even fit a FOSS kit in.
What can we do about this? It would greatly help if teachers just entering the field were better prepared in science through course work and teaching experiences. Teachers need to learn how to integrate science in with literacy. This will help with the "not enough time" problem. In addition, the kit approach has helped many, and continued support through NSF funding would help address the quality issue in developing new kits. Finally, we need to address the political problems. What we need is another Sputnik, where the public would demand the teaching of science. Until the teaching of science is valued by the taxpayers, I fear science education will continue to slide.