primary schools

How science texts and hands-on explorations facilitate meaning making: Learning from Latina/o third graders

Maria Varelas, Lynne Pieper, Amy Arsenault, Christine C. Pappas and Neveen Keblawe-Shamah

In this study, we examined opportunities for reasoning and meaning making that read-alouds of children’s literature science information books and related hands-on explorations offered to young Latina/o students in an urban public school. Using a qualitative, interpretative framework, we analyzed classroom discourse and children’s writing and drawing in a 3rd grade class during five instructional days that focused on the same science topic (earthworms and their features, behaviors, habitat, etc.) and included read-aloud sessions of print and digital books on earthworms along with observations and experiments with real earthworms. We identified ways in which dialogically shared read-alouds of children’s literature science books on earthworms became tools for children’s meaning making that involved a variety of types of reasoning (causal, teleological, comparative, analogical) in the form of questions, statements, or mini-stories, and how the teacher mediated the children’s engagement in reasoning. We also identified unique opportunities that hands-on explorations offered children to extend their ideas about earthworms, sprinkle their reasoning with playfulness, imbue affect in their meaning making, exhibit sensitivity to suffering and personal connections, and consider ethical treatment of animals. The study findings highlight the synergistic relationship between informational texts and hands-on explorations and point to the significance and usefulness of incorporating both in science instruction so that we maximize the richness of children’s learning experiences by offering them multiple access points and pathways via the assets they bring to the classroom and the ones they co-construct with their teacher and peers.



Experimental evaluations of elementary science programs: A best-evidence synthesis

Robert E. Slavin, Cynthia Lake, Pam Hanley, Allen Thurston

This article presents a systematic review of research on the achievement outcomes of all types of approaches to teaching science in elementary schools. Study inclusion criteria included use of randomized or matched control groups, a study duration of at least 4 weeks, and use of achievement measures independent of the experimental treatment. A total of 23 studies met these criteria. Among studies evaluating inquiry-based teaching approaches, programs that used science kits did not show positive outcomes on science achievement measures (weighted ES = +0.02 in 7 studies), but inquiry-based programs that emphasized professional development but not kits did show positive outcomes (weighted ES = +0.36 in 10 studies). Technological approaches integrating video and computer resources with teaching and cooperative learning showed positive outcomes in a few small, matched studies (ES = +0.42 in 6 studies). The review concludes that science teaching methods focused on enhancing teachers’ classroom instruction throughout the year, such as cooperative learning and science-reading integration, as well as approaches that give teachers technology tools to enhance instruction, have significant potential to improve science learning.


Becoming (less) scientific: A longitudinal study of students’ identity work from elementary to middle school science

Heidi B. Carlone, Catherine M. Scott, Cassi Lowder

Students’ declining science interest in middle school is often attributed to psychological factors like shifts of motivational values, decrease in self-efficacy, or doubts about the utility of schooling in general. This paper adds to accounts of the middle school science problem through an ethnographic, longitudinal case study of three diverse students’ identity work from fourth- to sixth-grade school science. Classroom observations and interviews are used as primary data sources to examine: (1) the cultural and structural aspects of the fourth- and sixth-grade classrooms, including the celebrated subject positions, that enabled and constrained students’ identity work as science learners; (2) the nature of students’ identity work, including their positioning related to the celebrated subject positions within and across fourth- and sixth-grade science; and (3) the ways race, class, and gender figured into students’ identity work and positioning. In fourth-grade, all experienced excellent science pedagogy and performed themselves as scientifically competent and engaged learners who recognized themselves and got recognized by others as scientific. By sixth-grade, their identity work in school science became dramatically less scientific. Celebrated subject positions did not demand scientific thinking or robust engagement in scientific practices and were heavily mediated by race, class, and gender. Our results highlight three insights related to the middle school problem: (1) when students’ social identity work was leveraged in service of robust science learning, their affiliation increased; (2) academic success in school science did not equate to affiliation or deep engagement with science; and (3) race, class, and gender figured into students’ successes in, threats to, and identity work related to becoming scientific. We end the article by providing a framework and questions that teachers, teacher educators, and researchers might use to design and evaluate the equity of science education learning spaces.


Bringing Earth Into the Scene of a Primary School: A Science Theatre Experience

Tiziana Lanza, Massimo Crescimbene, Federica La Longa, Giuliana D’Addezio

Studies have shown that narrative is a valid tool to transmit science in a school context. We explored science theatre to promote earthquake knowledge and risk preparedness by readapting an old legend describing the 1908 Messina earthquake into a script, which was then performed in a primary school. We evaluated the experience designing a questionnaire inspired by the Düss Fairy Tales method and a semistructured questionnaire. Preliminary results strongly encourage science theatre as a means to transfer knowledge and open new opportunities to use this method as an agent of change in behavior before and during an earthquake.