MEDWAY — Principal Amy McDonald is pleased to share an update on the restructuring of science classes at McGovern Elementary.
Science was traditionally taught by general classroom teachers, which presented challenges for teachers in being able to address all content areas effectively during the day. Science was oftentimes not able to be given the time or attention it required.
In 2019, teachers suggested making science its own “special” course where it would be taught by a specialist rather than a classroom teacher. This was expected to give K-1 students a more uniform and consistent science learning experience and allow classroom teachers to enhance their focus on other subjects.
Taking science out of the classroom would also allow educators to give students the opportunity to do hands-on work, develop critical thinking skills, think about science in an inquiry-based way, approach real-world problems, learn through practical application, set students up for success in high-level science learning, and ensure all students could succeed.
Through the new structure, students attend a 40-minute science block twice per week where they focus solely on science curriculum. The classes are taught by Stephanie Fogaren who is McGovern’s K-1 Science, Technology, and Engineering Teacher.
“Having science, technology and engineering as a special class rather than inside a traditional classroom structure is a unique idea that came from the classroom teachers themselves. Because of this unique setup, we are able to dive even deeper into the standards than would be possible in a more traditional classroom format,” Fogaren said.
In their classes, students begin by learning about seeing themselves as scientists, as well as learn the difference between tools and toys and how to safely use the materials that will be included in science lessons. K-1 students also work to develop social-emotional skills such as listening, taking turns and including others, and learning how to collaborate in groups.
An important part of K-1 science lessons is helping students understand that science is about trying, failing, and trying again because scientists often don’t solve their problems right away. This lesson sets a foundation for students to persevere through obstacles and accept when projects turn out differently than expected. Students learn about the design process where they ask a question, explore solutions and create a model, evaluate whether the model works and determine what they may do differently next time.
Units of inquiry in the classes include matter, push and pull, living things, sunlight and weather, and structure and function.
“The benefit from this initiative has been tangible. Students are able to be very hands-on while engaging in relevant problem solving through our inquiry units,” Fogaren said. “It is truly remarkable to watch their passion for science emerge at such a young age. There is nothing better than hearing such a young student proclaim that they are a scientist.”