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  • Elizabeth Barrett-Zahn

Shifting from Kits to NGSS (S&C Editor's Note)

Updated: Aug 4, 2020

Anyone who has spent some time in a preschool or elementary classroom knows that there is so much going on during the day in terms of classroom management, the social-emotional demands, as well as the attention to the academic objectives. Teachers tasked with teaching science will often lament about not having the necessary science materials and background knowledge to effectively implement hands-on lessons. To fill this void, publishers have created the “science kit.” High-quality science kits have been field-tested

As a science specialist, I’ve heard about successfully implemented kit-based science programs yet more often than not, I’ve seen “the big blue box with science stuff” taking up storage space in closets or classroom corners. So where is the disconnect? Teachers are asking for materials, guidance, and background information; quality kits are providing all of this, yet many kit programs are still ending up on the shelf. Kits often fall short of filling this niche, and the reasons can usually be divided into three categories: lack of teaching training (PD), shoestring sharing of supplies across too many classrooms/grade-levels, and lack of teacher buy-in to the efficacy of a program.

Publishers have been listening and as so kits have been evolving from traditional cookbook type activities to more three-dimensional, inquiry-based investigations. There is no denying that our teachers are going to need some help if they plan to effectively implement 60 minutes of science every day, as recommended by NSTA’s Elementary School Science Position Statement.

I don’t have the answer to the million-dollar question about what is the best way to package materials and resources for teachers so that they can competently and consistently teach science. What I do know is that if we strive to have science as an integral part of the school day, we will need to provide necessary professional development aimed at changing teachers’ mindsets about what science teaching looks like and sounds like in their classrooms. The reality is that even the most exquisitely designed kit, will fall short unless the teacher has time to immerse themselves in the pedagogy and understands the rationale for following prescribed steps.

Currently, organizations such as EdReports and tools such as EQuIP and Primary Evaluation of Essential Criteria (PEEC) are evaluating the three-dimensional efficacy, alignment to NGSS, and teacher usability for science programs and lessons; and once again publishers are taking notice of this change in approach, methodology, and alignment. There is hope that science programs will be able to support and guide teachers as they provide real-world, constructivist experiences that inspire creativity, encourages student choice, enhances collaborative communication, promotes wonder and curiosity, and fundamentally elevates science and engineering teaching and learning.

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