Educators and policymakers are working to improve elementary school science, but parents also can help. Here's how:
Visit your child's elementary school and see what kind of science instruction is available. During your visit, look for clues as to whether science is valued.
- Do you see displays related to science? Science learning centers?
- Are science-related drawings on the bulletin boards? Are there plants, terrariums, aquariums, or collections (of rocks or insects, for example)?
- Do you see any science equipment in evidence? Are there magnifiers? Magnets? Pictures? Films?
- Does the school library contain science books? If so, ask the librarian if the children are encouraged to read them.
- Is there enough space in the classrooms or elsewhere in the school for students to conduct experiments?
- In science classes, do students work with materials, or is the teacher always demonstrating? Do students discuss their ideas, predictions, and explanations with each other as well as with the teacher?
Ask questions about the science program at parent-teacher conferences or PTA meetings. Or set up an appointment with the school principal. This provides you with information about the science program and lets educators know you think science is important. Educators are more apt to teach subjects they know parents are interested in. Here are some things to find out:
- What facilities and resources are available to teach science? If the school budget for science is inadequate, has the school or district tried to obtain resources from the community, particularly the business community?
- How often is science taught? Every day, once a week, or only once in a while?
- Do the school and/or your children's teachers have clear goals and objectives for teaching science?
- Can students do hands-on science projects?
- Are activities available that parents can use at home to supplement class instruction?
Take action - If the science program is inadequate, talk with your child's teacher or meet with the principal. If that brings no results, write to or meet with school board members. You might get better results if you organize with other parents who have similar concerns.
Volunteer your services to improve the science programs. You can:
- Assist teachers and students with classroom science projects;
- Chaperone science-related field trips;
- Offer to set up a science display in the school's front hallway or in your child's classroom;
- Lead hands-on lessons (if you have a good science background yourself);
- Help in a computer laboratory or other area requiring adult supervision; and
- Volunteer to raise funds for computers, a classroom guinea pig, or field trips.