2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM


ASMUS, Karolanne K. and NAGY-SHADMAN, Elizabeth A., Department of Geological Sciences, California State Univ, Northridge, 18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge, CA 91330-8266, kasmus@lausd.k12.ca.us

Federal legislation known as the No Child Left Behind act is requiring that classrooms throughout the nation have teachers who are “knowledgeable and experienced in science” by 2005. Beginning in 2007 the law requires each state to measure students’ progress in science at least once per year in each of three grade spans (3-5, 6-9, 10-12), and federal funding decisions will be based on these results. As accountability filters down to school districts, such as California’s enormous Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), there has been a push to teach students the importance of science. This push has revealed that many elementary school teachers were using outdated science textbooks or, in some cases, no textbooks at all. In response to these oversights, LAUSD has provided teachers with new books and materials to teach science. However, without proper training, teachers feel overwhelmed with these new materials. A survey conducted in this study of 65 elementary school teachers confirms that many teachers do not have enough time within the school day to carry out experiments. Additionally, many teachers feel uncomfortable teaching science due to their own lack of subject knowledge, and agree they would benefit from a “science coach,” a person to whom they can turn for advice and help in order to meet the demands of teaching science. In response to this need for guidance, and as part of a graduate research project at California State University, Northridge, 45-minute earth science lessons were modeled two times per week for three weeks in elementary school classrooms within LAUSD in Van Nuys, California. Teachers who observed the modeled lessons agreed that this was beneficial and that they were more willing to teach these lessons to future students. By helping elementary school teachers learn more about earth science standards-related topics, and by modeling classroom lessons, current and future elementary students will receive better exposure to science topics. This introduction provides an important foundation for students as they advance into science classes at the middle and high school levels by demonstrating that science is compelling and enjoyable. Findings in this study also underscore the need for improved, hands-on science instruction in elementary-level teacher preparation programs.