Deepening Elementary Teacher Knowledge in "Hard Science" to Enhance Science Teaching
According to the National Academies Press, few elementary school teachers have their terminal degrees in science as compared to other disciplines and as such, can be intimidated by teaching science topics. Earth science can be an approachable topic area for elementary teachers and their students to investigate, yet teachers may lack foundational knowledge themselves and are often unsure of where to access reliable datasets and activities. The American Meteorological Society's (AMS) graduate-level teacher professional development courses (offered with California University of Pennsylvania) provide all K-12 teachers the opportunity to develop their confidence in teaching weather, ocean, and climate science (http://ametsoc.org/amsedu/k12teachers).
As an elementary school teacher who has benefitted from these programs, I will share several several units I've developed connected to the atmosphere and hydrosphere that align with both the spirit and content of elementary science NGSS. NGSS encourages teachers to focus on the "Driving Questions" of students rather than just memorizing a set of facts. Student driven curriculum often leads to unexpected questions, and teachers without a background in science may have a hard time guiding student learning when they don't have a science background themselves.Through my engagement in the AMS/Cal U professional development opportunities, I have deepened my content knowledge and better understand the connections between scientific topics and cross cutting concepts as well as having been reenergized to teach the subject matter.
Through engagement in these courses, and then becoming a Certified AMS Teacher (http://ametsoc.org/CAT), educators, including elementary teachers', can develop their skills in hard science and increase their confidence, professional connections, and the overall content knowledge from which they draw to connect with and inspire their students.