The Survey Says
Any great science teacher will tell you that teaching science means going beyond the content and allowing students to explore, experiment, and experience wonders of science first-hand.
Whether that be in a science lab, on the school fields or in the classroom, teachers need to actively involve students in their own learning. Science helps students develop a conceptual framework for our world as well as develop problem-solving skills.
ESGI and ThinkFives asked hundreds of elementary teachers what their favorite science activities are for students. Here’s their list.
Perhaps the most surprising name on the list is Gerry Brooks, the education
Hatching chicks has always been a favorite activity for students. This activity helps children understand the importance of carefully observing and caring for eggs and chickens in the classroom.
This lesson is intended to help students realize that they can learn a lot about chickens—and animals in general—through close observation. They also should come to understand that it is important to learn about the special needs of eggs and chicks in order to take care of them, whether on a farm or in a classroom hatching project.
This lesson can be used as an orientation for students before doing a chicken-hatching unit in class. It may also be used in conjunction with the unit to emphasize the importance of the proper care for eggs and chicks.
Children have been experiencing weather their entire lives—whether playing in the snow, chasing leaves in the wind, jumping in rain puddles, or bundling up against the cold. Exploring weather with children and building on their prior experiences helps them understand the different kinds of weather phenomena they experience every day.
In weather activities, students can learn that weather is the combination of four factors—temperature, wind, precipitation, and sunlight or clouds—that occur at a given place and time. The mix of factors is changing all the time; therefore, weather conditions are changing all the time. Many weather activities allow students to observe the four factors in various types of weather and identify evidence of weather factors in different weather conditions.
Lifecycle of a butterfly
“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
Butterfly activities allow students to observe and identify the characteristics of the life cycle of a butterfly. Teachers can use science kits to study butterfly development as it metamorphoses from a caterpillar to a butterfly. During this time, students will learn about the attributes of a butterfly through both observation and comparing and contrasting. They can learn fundamental observation skills by comparing and contrasting actual characteristics of a butterfly with fictional representations of butterflies.
Determining what comes first, whether it is in the life cycle of a butterfly or the eruption of a volcano, is an important part of scientific exploration. Teachers like to use activities that encourage younger students to use a pictorial timeline outlining stages as they happen. Older students can write the timeline as an outline, describing each stage in depth.
Another example could be geology. Geologic time can be difficult for students to understand. Our own lives are so short that when we compare them to the age of the Earth, hundreds of millions of years of geologic time are almost too much to grasp. But for us to understand Earth activities today, we must have at least some basic understanding of geologic time.
By studying the past, we can better understand the present and more accurately predict future changes.
Coming in at #1 as the most recommended science activity is any hands-on experiment.
Hands-on experiences allow students to experiment with trial-and-error, learn from their mistakes, and understand the potential gaps between theory and practice.
Hands-on projects engage all types of learners, including:
- Kids who are tactile or kinesthetic learners—those who need movement to be involved in order to learn best.
- Auditory learners who learn best by listening and talking about what they’re doing.
- Visual learners, who like to see what everyone else is creating.
- Social learners who may strengthen their content knowledge, communication skills, and confidence.
Examples from our surveyed teachers:
- “Taste Testing” Party at the beginning of the year for our “Five Senses”
- Anything that “blows up”
- Working with live insects, planting, or going out in nature.
- Anything with slime, soap or water.
- Determining frog songs for which frog
- FOSS Science: students learn about snails and their features, and then students do a snail race.
- Apple tasting and the 5 senses. I also love the water cycle.
- Engineering projects such as building the tallest beanstalk.
- Reading about Martin Luther King Jr and doing an egg activity to show them that the inside of eggs are the same no matter the outside color.
- Hands-on experiments to actually make evaporation, condensation, liquids to solids by making ice cream in a bag, ice in a can, and boiling water.
- Science experiments like magnets, sink/float, building bridges
- Going outside and measuring the actual size of a blue whale.
What are your favorite science experiments to do with your students?