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When teachers have edtech tools to present scientific concepts to students, elementary science is more likely to be part of the day.

3 essential tools to make elementary science easier

When teachers have a variety of edtech resources to present scientific concepts to students, science is more likely to be part of the instructional day

Key points:

  • Interactivity and engaging resources can make science more approachable
  • Elementary school teachers need easy-to-use science tools that will grab students’ attention

During my time as a kindergarten teacher, I learned three major lessons about our youngest learners’ relationship to science. Specifically, I learned that elementary school students are predisposed to being excited to learn about their world, are naturally curious about how the world of nature works, and benefit highly from learning about the STEM/STEAM-related professions they might someday consider pursuing.  

My current role as a PreK-12 science curriculum specialist affords me the opportunity to work alongside a variety of elementary school teachers as they plan engaging lessons and activities for their students. Often, I hear that science is set aside for various reasons. While I recognize the critical importance of developing math and literacy mastery, we must ensure our elementary level learners are well-rounded and prepared with the scientific skills needed for future success. So, I see it as part of my role to provide the teachers I serve with easy-to-use resources and instructional supports they need to easily “sneak” scientific concepts into their lesson.

It seems obvious to say that when teachers have a variety of simple, high-impact academic resources to utilize to present scientific phenomena and concepts to their students, they are more likely to assure that science is included within their instructional day.

However, with all educators have on their plate today, experimenting with edtech resources might take a backseat to some other important tasks.  So, I’ve created a list of three easy-to-use, essential digital tools elementary educators can use to inject science into instruction.

Those resources are:  

1. Discovery Education platform and Science Techbook: Both resources include rich content such as high-quality educational videos, photography, audio files, simulations, and suggested lab activities. While the platform can be used across all topics, the Science Techbook is especially built for science instruction.  There is a special Science Techbook available for Texas educators like myself, and it includes  everything teachers need for easy lesson planning including 5E formatting, lesson assignment, and supportive professional learning. Discovery Education’s Science Techbook also allows simple navigation for students and differentiated student supports including vocabulary enhancements and Spanish translation for ELL students. Discovery Education’s Techbook can be used as a supplemental resource or it can  stand alone as it covers the depth and breadth of the required science content standards including NGSS, individual state standards such as the Texas Essentials of Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), and the English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS).  Science Techbook is licensed per school.

2. Merge EDU: With so many students being visual learners, it benefits our scholars to make use of interactive technology. Merge uses a cube that can be paper made (with a free template) or foam (requires a one-time purchase) to bring science concepts alive. The resource is available for use on tablets, laptops, or other devices. Students are immersed in 3D simulations they can touch and manipulate. When learners explore the concepts in this way it gives them a memory to access later on. Students use an app along with the cube to explore content. For the K-2 student, the Merge object viewer gives you a collection of over 1,000 visuals to place models in students’ hands. Many children have limited experiences and background knowledge. Everything from an ant to a beehive to rock samples can be held in the palm of their hands. In Merge Explorer, there are also activity plans that include assessment and extension ideas to differentiate instruction. Seeing students’ eyes light up through these experiences reaffirms why I do what I do. A limited number of simulations are available free with many more available through a subscription. 

3. Quizizz: Assessing student mastery and checking for understanding is critical for teacher success. This is a task that can be done at the K-2 level with some adaptations to conventional multiple choice format. Quizizz is a platform that addresses this issue. There are lessons and formative assessments available or you can create your own. Their goal is to motivate students and make the learning process more engaging. Questions can be set up in multiple choice, drag and drop, or drop down arrangements. The questions display in a quiz show style while remaining user friendly even at a kindergarten level. Questions or quizzes that are already created can be utilized or edited. Quizzes can vary in length and are accessible in many languages. Once set up, teachers share a code with students that allows them to participate in the quiz. Students can see their results after the quiz and teachers receive immediate feedback allowing for reteach when necessary. The basic edition is free for teachers.

 A standard or premium version including additional features is also available for a monthly fee. Overall this is a great tool for teachers to increase student engagement while assessing their knowledge. 

Many elementary school teachers are underprepared or apprehensive about  teaching science concepts.  In addition, only a small percentage of students graduate with proficiency in science. I believe these two facts clearly show that we need to provide elementary school teachers easy-to-use tools that will grab students’ attention, ignite their natural curiosity, and encourage them to continue to engage in science. Utilizing the resources mentioned in this article can provide students exposure to science concepts within small time frames with minimal preparation. 

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