Do your elementary-schoolers get enough instruction in science? Research conducted by the University of California indicates that if your children are publicly-educated in the state of California, they likely do not. Get this: about 40% of California students are receiving one hour or less of science instruction per week. Some of the reasons cited for the overall lack of strong science programs at the elementary level (with my helpful analysis) include:
1. Teachers. They don't have strong science backgrounds, and therefore feel ill-prepared to teach science to little kids. Oh, come on. We're talking GENERAL concepts like why the moon looks different at various times of the month. The water cycle. The solar system. The difference betwen bugs and spiders. Gimme a break. This excuse did not hold water with me; how about you?
2. Instructional materials and facilities. Yeah. I'd like a big science budget, too, so I could demonstrate the properties of platinum to all my students. But seriously. Materials at the elementary school level do NOT have to be expensive. Have you guys not done the cardboard and half-full glass trick to show air pressure? Played with magnets? Used a lever or screwdriver and hammer to show "simple tools?" Grown a seed in a clear plastic cup? Are you SERIOUSLY gonna give the "instructional materials and facilities" copout at the elementary level because your kids are at the poverty level? Are you saying you can't afford to walk outside and look at bugs and trees? Oh, good grief.
3. Assessing student progress. It's a big problem. We won't know if the kids learn anything if we don't have a standardized test for it! Wow. So, when children refuse to learn stuff or pay attention in class when something isn't going to be on the test, we'll know where they got that attitude from. I know no teacher can do it all, but how much money does it cost to put out a clearly-marked bowl with 300 ml of water on a Monday with the words, "Process of Evaporation" on a paper nearby. Hm. On Friday, what changed? Log that down. What is this "process of evaporation" and how long does it take? Do something small each month to help these children learn more about how the world works.
All that doesn't cost anything... or very little... it just takes a minute of your time. After reading this report, I was very concerned that this isn't just a "California thing," or if it is, it won't be for long. I've homeschooled for about five years now and I'm sooo tired of the stereotypical "Christian homeschoolers don't learn science like we do" business. Maybe that's a good thing! Why fight over Christians not teaching evolution to their kiddies if you hardly teach ANYTHING at all?
I guess all I can say is that at least my children learn in their elementary years about the solar system. They know about various sorts of birds and where they live. They've looked at trees and can identify some. They know a little about the weather and how weather can change, about the various cloud formations and a bit about the different types of rocks in the world. Insect and plant life cycles.
I'm not bragging. I don't even pretend to have a 'world class' (or whatever the current buzzword is) science education going on here. But SOMETHING is going on here. (At least, when I'm not doped up right after a surgery it is.)
I just found this report to be the biggest, lamest bunch of excuses ever. I'd actually be ok with the entire state of California saying, "You know what? Science isn't really that important, and so we don't feel like teaching it." That would be fine because then, I could just figure that I have a polite difference of opinion with the state. But it chaps my hide to see all this stuff about how vital it is, but they can't dig up a few earthworms for some third graders and talk about soil aeration. Or get a basketball, a tennis ball and a flashlight and talk about the moon and the seasons.
Maybe I'm just a big meanie beanie because I don't know what it's like to teach an entire classroom full of children. And I don't know what it's like to be under the constraints of testing and bell schedules. I admit that.
But less than an hour a week in science? If you were a parent of a child in elementary school, would that be OK with you?