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Curriculum Insights • Fostering a Love of Science

Rochelle Mothokakobo, Science Teacher, Head of Academic Programs

Children are natural scientists. They love to ask questions, experiment with different modalities, and share excitement when they learn from play. Our PBS program builds on natural curiosity to foster a love of science through a strong foundation of observations, curiosity, innovation, and wonder to develop their ability to “think like a scientist.”

Students at PBS embark on a rigorous, hands-on science curriculum that develops science thinkers, readers, and writers. Our curriculum follows the Next Generation Science Standards which builds: Understanding of science phenomena, comfort with using the science process to investigate questions, ability to innovate solutions utilizing the engineering process, academic language, and application of math and literacy skills in real world situations.

Upon graduation from PBS, students will embark on their next steps with a connection to the world around them, a strong foundation in science phenomena, a working knowledge of the science and engineering processes, and a desire to find solutions to the world’s problems.

How do the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) support science learning?

  • Based on student thinking: By the time a student graduates from high school, they are thinking about solving problems and answering tough questions, to ensure they are ready to incorporate science thinking as part of their lives.
  • Process-based approach: Demonstrating that the investigation of phenomena is just as important as definition because science is continually evolving with phenomena being better defined with each new experiment. Throughout a student’s academic career, they will reinforce phenomena with deeper meaning and thinking each time, as science researchers do in real life.

How does science progress from Kindergarten to 5th Grade?

  • Students are introduced to scientific concepts through local phenomena in the lower grades and then reinforced in 3rd to 5th grades.
  • Phenomena: Observable events used to engage students in scientific thinking and drive their inquiry. Some phenomena used are:
    Kindergarten: Weather patterns
    1st Grade: Animal adaptations to survive
    2nd Grade: Water evaporation
    3rd Grade: Life cycles of butterflies
    4th Grade: National Parks landforms and natural history
    5th Grade: Terrariums as models of the Earth’s systems
  • PBS believes in hands-on science through ample experimentation in all grades.

What is hands-on science and what does it look like in our classroom?

  • Hands-on science: Students investigate phenomena through exploration and experimentation before explanations are provided by the instructor. At the beginning of learning, objects are set out, and students are asked to notice, think, and wonder about them. Students may be asked to follow steps and observe results to help them create explanations prior to the instructor helping to fill in the blanks.
  • Kindergarten to 2nd Grade:
    • Explore outdoors, seeking patterns in nature to study weather, living and non-living things, and energy
    • Use of clay to build models of organisms to explain how they are able to survive
    • Use of simple objects (balls, crafts, blocks, etc.) to build engineering skills
  • 3rd to 5th Grade:
    • Following trends outdoors (tracing shadows over a day or following plants over time) to create explanations of the world around them
    • Experimentation using models to learn about phenomena such as weathering, energy transformation, and moon phases
    • Learning about the world and developing scaled models to use as a communication tool
    • Engineering challenges with limited supplies to facilitate innovation and creative thinking

How is academic language built into the science program?

The PBS curriculum helps students build an academic language that shows their scientific thinking. This looks different in each grade:

  • Kindergarten: Learning words that scientists would use in “words we use” on the wall, e.g., using “Push and Pull” when talking about motion
  • 1st and 2nd Grade: Students write these words in their science notebooks and use them when sharing with partners and when presenting. Students develop the ability to ask a testable question and create explanations of their results.
  • 3rd to 5th Grade: Using the academic language in conversation and in science notebooks; progressively becoming more confident in asking questions, developing claims, building/setting up experiments, collecting and reporting data, and creating explanations; being able to synthesize thoughts to communicate with others about what they investigated

Students read non-fiction texts in all grades to underpin learning of scientific processes.

How does the science program apply math and literacy skills?

  • Science is possible not only because of curiosity and questions, but also because math helps scientists differentiate what they observe, and literacy allows scientists to communicate it.
  • Math is incorporated in all grades:
    • Kindergarten: Counting using 10 frames, adding, finding patterns, comparing numbers, and learning to measure
    • 1st and 2nd Grade: Utilizing different types of measurements, taking numerical data and comparing it, and looking for more complex patterns
    • 3rd to 5th Grade: Using the metric system for measurements, taking numerical data, graphing data, comparing data, looking for nonlinear patterns, and using scale and proportions to develop models
  • Literacy is incorporated in all grades: Writing out notes helps students retain information critical for communication, leading to deeper thinking and understanding; therefore, science notebooking starts in Kindergarten and becomes more complex each year:
    • Kindergarten: Notebooks have a majority of information already included. Students circle or write in short answers with ample space for a choice to write or draw observations and thoughts.
    • 1st and 2nd Grade: Notebooks have the day’s exploration fully outlined. Students write short phrases and sentences, and they write or draw thoughts and observations.
    • 3rd to 5th Grade: Composition notebooks are provided. Students organize and maintain their notebook over three years by following the teacher’s modeled notebook. Students write answers to prompts, include all information from the day’s exploration, and end with written reflection.
  • The use of notebooks is a best practice in elementary science, as it allows analysis of thinking, reflection on inquiry, and a safe place to practice communication of information.

What is the science process and the engineering process, and do students need both?

  • The science process strives to answer a question while the engineering process strives to solve a problem. Both start with questions, observations, and curiosity – but proceed differently.
  • Both processes are critical for elementary students. When students use both to answer questions and solve problems repeatedly in elementary school, they develop creative and innovative thinking that benefits them in subjects beyond science.
  • All students need to be introduced to these processes to ensure early understanding of science and engineering.

What can I do to support my children at home?

  • Ask open-ended questions about science explorations, allowing your children to share what they were curious about and enjoyed, and encouraging further family reflection: What did you discover today? What did you notice? What do you wonder?
  • Go on walks with your child. Ask what they notice, think, and wonder. Make it a hunt, looking for colors, shapes, things that start with letters in the alphabet, shadows, or evidence of animals.
  • Read nonfiction books about the world, such as National Geographic Kids’ Readers, or Ranger Rick.
  • Build with blocks, magnatiles, or other modalities. Challenge each other to build higher with less, or even build new shapes.
  • Most importantly: If they want to explore, join them.

To learn more about science and other multigrade subjects at PBS, watch for upcoming parent education opportunities:

  • Every Tuesday before Spring Break: Articles on each multigrade subject (art, library, music, physical education, and technology)
  • April 5: Virtual parent education at 8:00 p.m. led by Jon Fulk and PBS multigrade teachers

Thank you for supporting our multigrade programs!

Rochelle Mothokakobo, Jon Fulk, and Scott Erickson
Science Teacher, Head of Academic Programs, and Head of School

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