IMPROVING SCIENCE EDUCATION IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS: K-5 TEACHERS AS EARTH SCIENCE STUDENTS IN THE SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA SCIENCE TEACHERS ACADEMY
In southwest Virginia (Virginia’s superintendant’s Region 7) approximately 9% of 3rd and 5th grade students fail to reach a proficient level in science according to Virginia Standards of Learning assessments. In order to meet the primary goal of improving K-5 science education in the region, E&H science faculty set out to improve the content knowledge, conceptual understanding, and the science teaching self-efficacy of K-5 teachers.
As the geology instructor at E&H, I taught the Earth Science portion of the academy in five sessions over the academic year. Results from the pretest indicated weaknesses in both content knowledge and conceptual understanding of fundamental Earth Science material. The average score was a 27%, zero scored higher than 50%, and over half of the teachers scored below 25%. Most of the K-5 teachers had never had a geology course but were expected to teach about the solar system, oceans, the rock cycle, volcanoes, earthquakes, etc. Fortunately, the K-5 teachers were excellent Earth Science students and the average on the posttest was a 94%, an average of 67% improvement. The SVSTA alumni now serve as science resource teachers at their respective schools.