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Early Childhood Educ J (2015) 43:317–326

DOI 10.1007/s10643-014-0656-3

Cultivating Primary Students’ Scientific Thinking Through
Sustained Teacher Professional Development
Roxanne Greitz Miller • Margaret Sauceda Curwen •

Kimberly A. White-Smith • Robert C. Calfee

Published online: 1 August 2014 
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Abstract While the United States’ National Research Introduction
Council (NRC 2012) and Next Generation Science Stan-
dards (NGSS 2013) advocate children’s engagement in While the United States’ National Research Council (NRC
active science learning, elementary school teachers in the 2012) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS
US indicate lack of time to teach science regularly because 2013) advocate children’s engagement in active science
of (1) school and district pressure to focus on English learning, elementary grades teachers in the US indicate
language arts and mathematics assessment scores in they do not have enough time to teach science regularly
response to the country’s No Child Left Behind (2001) because of pressure to focus on English language arts and
mandates; (2) a lack of preparation in teacher science mathematics—the subjects that constitute the largest
content knowledge; and (3) a lack of science professional weights in mandated assessments under the US Congress’
development opportunities. In response to these needs and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 (FDR Research
focusing on the primary (Kindergarten–first–second) grade Group 2011). The result is science instruction has been
levels, the Project SMART professional development pro- reduced in, or eliminated from, many US elementary
gram was created and implemented over three school years classrooms, particularly in primary (Kindergarten–first–
in one high-poverty California school district comprised of second) grades. Such is the case in the state of California
diverse students, including 62 % English language learn- (Dorph et al. 2011), where our work is based.
ers. This qualitative report explores primary grades teach- While lessening focus on assessment results and pro-
ers’ experiences in the professional development program, viding adequate time for teaching science might seem an
providing teacher descriptions of impact on student learn- easy solution, many teachers in the Dorph et al. study
ing and motivation as well as collegial trust gained through (2011) report being under-prepared in science content
on-going collaboration with university faculty, district knowledge and consequently hesitant to teach science even
professional development facilitators, and among their if time to do so existed. The US National Research Council
school/district peers. (NRC) asserts ‘‘…teachers need science-specific peda-
gogical content knowledge’’ (2012, p. 256) and, for busy
Keywords Professional development  Primary grades  practicing teachers, the main way they enhance their ped-
Science  Curriculum integration agogical knowledge is through professional development
(PD). Budget cuts in California, as in many US states, have
significantly curtailed professional development, especially
in science where eighty-five percent (85 %) of teachers
surveyed reported not receiving science PD within the
R. G. Miller (&)  M. S. Curwen  K. A. White-Smith previous 3 years (Dorph et al. 2011, p. 40).
Chapman University, Orange, CA, USA This exclusion of teacher PD in science content, and the
e-mail: rgmiller@chapman.edu
teaching of science from elementary curricula, contributes
R. C. Calfee to propagating intellectual poverty among students, partic-
Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA ularly those experiencing economic poverty and for whom

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urban public elementary school district in southern California. teachers in deepening their understanding of science con. and (3) instructional efficacy. addressed the additional conceptual and practical nalization. As part of a broader study on the project’s impact. this article maximize influence on teacher practice by addressing presents qualitative evidence from the teacher participants social psychological factors as well. in order to increase instructional efficacy through integrated curriculum. as Professional Development well within each grade.318 Early Childhood Educ J (2015) 43:317–326 English is not their primary language. development is critical (Banilower et al. cf. The Project multiple domains.g. An integrated cur- values and perceptions) and the school/district systemic riculum was our deliberate response to structural context (school practice. science content related to the topics in K-2 science stan- dards were presented. vertical and horizontal articulation was addressed so teachers at each grade level understood Meeting Teachers’ Needs Through Effective Science science content in grades below and above their own. p. (2) science instruc- sustained professional development. a grant-based teacher professional development program. Project SMART (Science. 2011). teachers are referred to as cooperative groups across schools/grade levels to address the ‘‘linchpin in any effort to change K-12 science educa. science faculty: content area experts. ited instructional time and resources. Zwiep et al. Authentic limitations in US schools and is consistent with the view teacher learning thrives when developed. and skills in literacy and mathematics SMART professional development program supported are central to scientific understanding and communication. social motivation and to increase interaction. they were able to tional time. The three SCL Framework phases—acquisition. through teachers’ science content knowledge. NRC Project SMART maintained that science instruction 2012). implemented. their coherence. inter- tent. as they are often enrolled in schools facing greatest administrative pressure to narrow the curriculum (Jennings and Renter 2006. Chambliss 123 . As a possible remedy to this problem. and transformation—address essential construc- needs of the ‘‘teacher learning system and school/district tivist elements of learning. and that content knowledge is acquired simultaneously in supported in all three interrelated systems. Reading and Technology). mathematics) to address the tension of lim- learning). Fig. 1 Science–cognition–literacy framework (Miller 2006) rience ranged from 1 year to over 30. Teachers’ years of expe- Fig. Mathematics. reflection and time for supervised application of new language arts. Teachers’ comments provide insight that. Opfer and Pedder’s (2011) meta analysis summa. routine. knowledge by providing ongoing science PD by university based instruction as a way to support primary grade stu. far lower than the 40 % average for other southern California districts. ‘‘Adult’’ levels of dents’ learning. The ultimate goal of and examples illustrative of the integrated lessons teachers this integrated PD program approach was to impact: (1) used. consistent with research on systemic contexts’’ mentioned previously. 83 % of these students participated in the federal lunch subsidy program and 62 % were English learners.535 students. offered a research-based design aligned with Common Core State Standards’ (CDE 2011) recommendations to teach science to young children in conjunction with literacy and mathematics.. 1) in an interdisciplinary manner (science. Social interaction was integrated into the science content lessons. however. 255) and. only 5 % of the teachers held advanced degrees. 2007. as such. overcome their Project SMART addressed increasing teacher content hesitancy to teach science. and attempted to integrating science and literary experiences (e. The study included 49 volunteer teachers and 1. 2007. and policies). their professional a supportive collegial network. Project SMART was conducted over three school years in 13 schools within one midsized. thus creating tion’’ (NRC 2012. must begin in the primary grades and continue for all rizes that successful teacher PD attends to three interrelated students in each subsequent grade level and used the Sci- and mutually informing ‘‘systems’’: the learning activity ence–Cognition–Literacy (SCL) Framework model (Miller system (PD activities. opportunities for 2006. and use integrated science. increase their science content knowledge. the teacher learning system (teacher’s beliefs. teachers worked in When reviewing reform efforts.

provide for horizontal and vertical coherence. 1. provided feedback on new practice. team extracted the ‘‘themes’’ of the district’s basal reading Resulting classroom science lessons included a ‘‘Life- series’ units in grades K. was also presented. marking on a simple data table their prediction beforehand ences over the 3-year project. Teachers were classifying were integrated into the PD activities and involved in multiple hands-on science experiences focused simple data tables were used to tally quantifiable data from on these three skills and on increasing student P–O–E observations. size bottles when blown into or tapped. which corresponded delivering integrated science and literary instruction. mint candies with their noses closed and then open. This sec- five senses. and then their ratively on lessons’ effectiveness. because of the explicit connections within the tion details findings from the end-of-project Teacher 123 . naming peoples’ feelings based on their facial on teaching. around us. tural differences. journals. Kinder- dicting. 2000. a university created their own interdisciplinary lesson plans—rather than food scientist presented a lesson to teachers about the being given ‘‘scripted lessons’’—and collaborated with different types of taste buds and flavors that trigger reac- colleagues across grades and schools. shown how to use them in relevant ways. were taught how to use USB temperature probes. going beyond the customary sweet/sour/bitter/salty observations of classroom teaching and reflection sessions and explained the interaction between smell and taste. surveys. All three science inquiry terms at the center of and taught them how to use science to teach literacy and the project—predict. Teachers organized interdisciplinary sci. saver Lab’’ where students tasted different fruit flavor and nections in the reading series to science and mathematics. the term that describes how food feels Teachers’ need to concentrate on instructional efficiency within the mouth. student knowledge was observations and explanations. mouth feel on peoples’ preferences for certain foods was reading) curriculum. and were ence–literacy–mathematics lessons around P–O–E skills. if there would be any difference in taste. ‘‘Mouth feel’’. the following qualitative sources were collected: expressions and gestures. a math activity where students counted and classified the students in their class Sample Unit and Focus based on eye color. Norris and Phillips reading series to sensory words. and explain—were relevant mathematics standards. sorting and teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge. again lending horizontal and vertical into this reading theme. and because we use our 2003. with students going through one room in their home and To better understand the connections between the science using sight. and a Sense Walk to be done at home. and comments from PD sessions. Consis. observe. teachers mathematics. to enable ‘‘stick’’ to teaching language arts and mathematics. teachers actively integration to additional senses (smell. and using sensory words. we describe one of the units presented at the Kindergarten grades early in the school year. including inside a mitten. math. and then observed and explained their experiences. and 2 and made explicit con. classroom observations. reading and shared later in class (see ‘‘Appendix’’ for unit plan). The PD targeted three key science explored and prompted engaging conversations about cul- inquiry skills attainable by primary grade students—pre. This teacher interviews. and the effect of was addressed through the integrated (science. smell. touch).Early Childhood Educ J (2015) 43:317–326 319 and Calfee 1998. modeling how teachers could use these tables capacity in science and reading and their predicting skill in in their own lessons. employed predominately in schools under sanctions to In one presentation during the science PD. parts of the face. the research used during this reading unit. To capture teacher pedagogical shifts and their evolving views their hands. such as mea- The P–O–E organizing structure was mapped onto a lesson suring the temperature of students’ hands under different plan template that classroom teachers used in planning and conditions. because observations are made coherence to the PD and addressing needs of teachers with our five senses. to be and the integration of the science. reading unit corresponded well with the science topic of the student artifacts. To to the ancillary children’s book. and explaining (P–O–E) and developing garten math concepts of identifying. The Mitten (Brett 1989). observing. To connect math to the lessons. University education faculty guided five senses to discover things about ourselves and the world teachers through curriculum analysis of unifying themes. Guthrie et al. counting. teachers reflected collabo. During PD sessions and reciprocal peer coaching experi. Miller 2007). As a technology extension. Peer and research team tions. and touch to observe at least 10 objects content learned in the professional development sessions and having an adult write down their observations. teachers to better understand the sense of taste and its tent with the characteristics of quality PD. math. a sound activity where evaluated by the project team annually on an end-of-year students predicted what sound would come from different written science content assessment. The theme found in the basal reading series Teachers’ Experiences was ‘‘Look at Us!’’ and contained readings where students learn about their personal characteristics. technology in classroom instruction.

in which teachers responded to prompts Increased Confidence and Science Knowledge regarding changes in instructional practice..’’ (beginner) science knowledge Impact on student (a) Students’ academic 19 ‘‘Science needs to be used in creating thinkers for our future.’’ (early career) engaging and motivating (c) Teachers’ epiphany on 6 ‘‘Perhaps one of the best outcomes was my willingness to let the kids get their practice hands dirty and figure things out for themselves. (3) collaboration with peers in refining their teaching. perceived student change. e. and life science. Key terms were identified and gogy in their classrooms as a result of the PD experiences used to refine codes. lesson ideas.’’ (early career) learning growth (b) Science lessons as 8 ‘‘Science lessons became a prize.’’ an educator (mid-career) (c) Value of learning from 6 ‘‘We actually learned geology. math. Several teachers indicated Project depicted below in Table 1. Through the project. we include years of experience here. future plans. oceanography. This university support provided teachers findings triangulated through other data sources. facilitators. 6–10 years is early career. and Four major strands among teacher quotes emerged. evidentiary comments teachers’ emic language is italicized and included in quo. and. teacher’s admission of being ‘‘afraid’’ to teach science ment. and coherent ways of indicated prior perceptions of teaching science. (2) perceived impact on student learning.. physical.. Because teacher perspectives and exemplified through one teacher’s reflection on now being skill were not necessarily aligned with years of teaching ‘‘confident when I teach science and students ask me experience.) These four major strands were further analyzed for temporal terms (i. (To best try new things and be supported in doing so. a motivator for good behavior. This notion was and teacher interviews. represent the teachers’ voices and for ease of reading. their lack of content knowledge Listening to Teachers’ Perspectives previously resulted in relatively low comfort level in teaching science—even to the extent of one mid-career After 3 years of Project SMART professional develop. SMART refined their current knowledge by acquiring a 123 . dence’’ to indicate shifts toward including science peda- lyzed by the research team.320 Early Childhood Educ J (2015) 43:317–326 Table 1 Qualitative findings Strand Sub-categories Frequency Example teacher comment and level of teaching experience Teacher confidence (a) Increased existing 18 ‘‘Given me the tools to better teach the science standards and thoroughly enjoy and knowledge science content each moment. For some teachers.e. with representative quotes.’’ (late university professors career) (d) Previous lack of 5 ‘‘[D]eveloped an interest [in science] that I never had before. to 8-year-olds and have a natural sense of wonder. and science consultant. teachers’ use four major strands: (1) confidence in and knowledge of of materials and resources provided by the Project SMART science content. with science texts. Teacher comments were broken into smaller eight teachers used the terms ‘‘confidence’’ or ‘‘self-confi- units using open coding (Strauss and Corbin 1998) and ana. primary grade teachers’ shifts were evident in these before starting the PD.’’ (early career) knowledge (b) Increased confidence as 28 ‘‘[M]ost significant…. including tools to return to their classrooms with a ‘‘yearning to teach the research team’s observations of classroom instruction science’’ and with gained expertise. In relation to science knowledge. the teachers’ ability to respond to children’s curiosity is cru- cial. ‘‘greater’’ or ‘‘more’’) or tations. ‘‘now’’ or ‘‘before’’) related to their sub-categories and the findings are represented in each as content expertise. and addressed such discomfort and provided a ‘‘safe’’ space to (4) perceptions of ‘‘permission’’ to teach science.e. and Related to increased confidence in the teaching of science. words such as ‘‘afraid’’ and ‘‘fear’’ with content instruction.’’ documenting impact on teachers’ beliefs about rized as: 0–5 years is beginner.’’ (mid-career) Reflective Journal. often used comparative terms (i. themselves.g. benefits and challenges of project participation. catego. Given that primary students range from 5-year 11–20 years is mid-career. the district advisor. 21? years is late career.is the knowledge…to use science across the curriculum.’’ (late career) Learning through 15 ‘‘…working together as a community [helped our learning]’’ (mid-career) collaboration Permission to teach 15 ‘‘I feel like I have been given the permission to take the time to let students science enjoy experimentation and playing with experiments. questions. linking concepts to the district language arts.

Students were scaffolded first by writing 123 . information. and. four individuals frankly remarked on their lack of science knowledge prior to participating in the project. Further An example of student learning through the predict. capitalization. as students observe-explain science inquiry skills framework was cap. 2). which was linked to the English Fig.or two-session teacher in-service to more robust and authentic learning experiences over time. students recorded their thoughtful guesses on ferent animals using the internet as a resource for additional which animals might hatch from eggs through their illus. and life science’’. Of particular note is one late career teacher who acknowledged the Project. and. ‘‘[I’ve] developed an interest [in science] that I never had before.’’ Teachers voiced ‘‘more extensive under- standing of basic scientific principles’’.’’ incubating duck eggs brought into the classroom. students engaged in writing reports about dif- component. Teachers perceived teaching science was instrumental in shaping ‘‘well-rounded students’’ and also developing ‘‘critical thinkers. ‘‘The professors gave us background knowledge so I was confident when teaching my students. ‘‘[M]ost signifi- cant…is the knowledge… to use science across the curriculum’’. A mid- career educator recognized how the PD fortified her existing knowledge gaps by stating the Project ‘‘helped fill a lot of holes. insects. insects and reptiles learning and. This provided an opportunity for students to trations and labeling on a circle Thinking Map (see use the genre of report writing to construct a meaningful Fig.’’ Impact on Student Learning The next major strand of the findings was how teachers perceived the impact of Project SMART on their students’ Fig. students recorded their message and use conventions of grammar. categorized other animals that hatch from eggs and identi- tured in one Kindergarten class’ extended unit. 2 Prediction circle map on animals that hatch experts. oceanography. therefore. Children also counted and graphed the number of language arts vocabulary and concept development from legs for several different animals. Two teachers even referred to the PD sessions as a ‘‘course’’ and ‘‘class/ seminar/meeting. titled fied different types of birds. 3 Observation and classification of birds. the ultimate teacher value of the PD experience. and reptiles (see ‘‘Animals That Hatch’’. ‘‘Has made me a much better science teacher…science knowledge was new to me. physical. teachers related the caliber of instruction instru- mental to their deep content learning. another research-based identified aspect of successful PD (Desi- mone 2009): ‘‘We actually learned geology.Early Childhood Educ J (2015) 43:317–326 321 ‘‘greater understanding’’ of scientific concepts. observational data was included in math lessons.’’ While many teachers viewed Project SMART’s support in increasing their scientific knowledge. observations of the changes in live caterpillars and and punctuation. In the explain lesson the district’s basal reading series.’’ The following evidentiary quotes cap- ture the credibility of university personnel whose instruc- tion elevated the professional development from a typically brief one.’’ Regarding the participation of science faculty as content Fig.’’ Teachers also shared a newfound affinity for science: ‘‘I never liked science when I was younger’’. As part of the prediction component. 3). Over the next few weeks. ‘‘[PD] gave me more thorough under- standing of the different areas of science.

friction. and gravity) and primary students’ engagement. aspect was the manner in which teachers were provided cate dispositions towards learning science early. project participation gave her the impetus use the ramps as examples of triangles and measure them in to create a learner-centered classroom environment noting. one mid- ated by numerous classroom observations in which chil. quality of questions and authentic engagement in the The third type of collaboration took place on school sites classroom. be front-loaded. 2008). listening. Cooperatively. with peer observations and feedback. 6 for student work). noting the reflective element needed in PD (Opfer and Pedder 2011). thus ameliorating differences between After receiving a science content lesson from university cultural groups. 5 Objects in motion P–O–E lesson plan—second grade Fig. It (see Fig. The third teacher handled the science portion ‘‘I have become aware of how important science is to my of the lesson. and technology helped students con.322 Early Childhood Educ J (2015) 43:317–326 Fig. 5). This collaboration cational experiences shape the way individuals orient occurred in three distinct ways. In her estimation. language arts. The late career teacher took the role of English was not unusual for children to code-switch between language development facilitator. teachers with other such teams across school sites. These teachers’ pre-planning on linking science with Teachers clearly valued becoming ‘‘a cohesive group’’ in math. addressing the recognized a change in their students’ affect. and worked on the por- English and Spanish to make peer learning more tion of the lesson where content-specific vocabulary would accessible.’’ For travel down the ramp and rulers for students to be able to another teacher. centimeters. again centering on fying element in her classroom.’’ A second has potential to motivate children (and teachers) to incul. The second teacher worked on the math Overall. and one beginner teacher formed a group and dren engaged in talking. One teacher reported science was now a uni. p. that teaching science was how the lesson would be presented in terms of the P–O–E not an option but a necessity in the youngsters’ school skills (see Fig. this social motivation and ability (Patterson et al. and documenting their designed a collaborative lesson on ramps for their students scientific notations during hands-on science activities. and technology connections. upon observing their motion (such as angle of ramp. 2008). such student engagement in ‘‘[science] experiments with other teachers. One aspect of shared themselves to the world and ‘‘move through their world learning took place during PD when teachers participated and act on it’’ (Rose 2012. 4 Observe and explain report on chrysalis collaboratively in a group and then creating individual Learning Through Peer Collaboration reports (see Fig. deciding to offer students as one teacher described surprise at continually finding digital stopwatches to record the time it took for objects to evidence of students ‘‘thinking so outside of the box. inclusive aspect was vital for the English learners who An example of such peer collaboration occurred among were able to engage in the ‘‘universal language’’ of sci. teachers were pleased with students’ response. faculty on objects in motion one late career.’’ The teachers realized. Because edu. effect of the PD (Patterson et al. entific exploration. these experiences. 4). the second grade teachers during the second summer of PD. their growth as science teachers (NRC 2012) and the social ceive of their learning in a holistic manner. career. These teacher comments were substanti. teachers delivered the lesson during the summer PD to 123 . time to discuss lesson plan design as a grade level team Upon integrating more science instruction. 29). discussing with students variables that effect students.

‘‘Project SMART has given me the right to teach science’’ (emphasis in original). the teacher comments are more understandable. p. The No Child Left than an event’’ (Opfer and Pedder 2011. Teachers further commented that the Project ‘‘[H]as given me the allowance to teach science and not Fig. the ‘‘permis- sion. second grade students. Their comments reflect a desire to seek out an ‘‘excuse to teach science. a mid-career teacher declared. 378.’’ or freedom. teachers con- ceded that their schools’ evaluations—and their own— were based almost exclusively on reading and math test scores. This finding is ments and perspectives.’’ Several teachers expressed earning a ped- agogical privilege. thus removing structural barriers previously in Learning Through Time and Trust Building place. with each teacher modeling for the teachers were able to demonstrate to administrators the other two her presentation style and format.’’ After the project. as six teachers cited. peers. improve our schools and classrooms becoming ever more prescriptive. to integrate science into the classroom. and their Multiple teachers remarked participation in Project own students. and [be] encouraged and supported [by] our peers. legitimize continuing with regular science instruction after cated the entire lesson in their own classrooms during the the project’s end. but were faced with the district’s overall regular school year. 2008). italics 123 . Teachers’ remarks reflect their perception that (by participating in Project SMART) they had the authority and. 6 Student work from objects in motion lesson feel guilty…’’ and ‘‘I feel like I have been given the per- mission to take the time to let students enjoy experimen- tation and playing with experiments. teachers often attended only to the mandated testing areas of reading and math prior to the project. achievement profile continuing to decline over time.Early Childhood Educ J (2015) 43:317–326 323 Behind (2001) national focus of accountability vis-à-vis standardized testing of exclusively English language arts and math in the elementary grades is reflected in this school district’s focus. Consequently. Given this educational context. SMART gave them ‘‘permission’’ to teach science in their classrooms. Unlike other typical PD where teachers might cite an additional burden of adding content to an overcrowded curriculum. This modeling positive impact of science on students’ reading and math to supported these teachers when they independently repli. During formal interviews. the process of developing teachers best explained by placing Project SMART within the is increasingly recognized as a ‘‘complex system rather national and local educational contexts. these teachers were eager to provide time for science using the integrated method learned in PD. The following discussion section addresses what we pro- pose were the most important new ‘‘lessons learned about ‘‘Permission’’ to Teach Science effective PD’’ from Project SMART and its impact on teachers’ learning from university experts. It was somewhat surprising that more than a third of the 49 teachers’ comments related to teachers’ perception Contemporary understandings of quality teacher profes- that the aegis of Project SMART provided an ‘‘excuse’’ to sional development include attention to a variety of ele- keep science instruction in their classroom.’’ One teacher considered it ‘‘one of the [Project’s] greatest gifts.’’ These teachers’ statements reinforce the applica- tion of social psychology theory on social motivation and Discussion ability helping to sustain long-term change (Patterson et al. with One teacher noted the value of peer consultations such state sanctions on PD and instructional conformity across as this ‘‘enable[d] us to extend our lessons. lessons.

and in an integrated manner that capi- standing with their peers across the district by collaborating talizes on all subject areas—language arts. Classroom observations by peers and by Postsecondary Education Commission. Despite the high number of students in the students’ scientific thinking. 123 . Project SMART children the habits of mind that support content exploration teachers gained facility in sharing their developing under- and investigation. like Project SMART. thrive in student-cen- to engage in PD that allowed them time to build trust tered hands-on learning. and with the university team. Through an extended 3-year backgrounds. p. or at paramount to overcoming their trepidation in providing least lessened. and initially uncomfortable practices—such as peer observation Disturbingly. it is necessary for trust build. teachers had opportunities who are English language learners. science. observing. knowledge and engagement in science. most notably high-stakes assessment. but this project shows ence is dependent on teachers’ deep content knowledge rather clearly that integrated instruction at the primary and ability to convey information in developmentally grade levels can be effectively utilized to increase student appropriate ways (Banilower et al. between themselves as faculty from different schools. teachers are constrained in developing scientific thinking and engagement. However. from low socio-economic communities. provided by university science and education faculty was It is clear that structural barriers need to be removed. but did not instinctively turn to partners in their efforts. and on lesson planning and implementation. Often accustomed to working teacher professional development and primary grades sci- behind the closed doors of their individual classrooms and ence instruction in the United States. and in obtaining honest feedback curriculum connections between science and other subjects about teacher knowledge and practice during PD sessions. 246). we acknowledge that dren’s science learning (NRC 2012. NRC 2012). the children in this California school district from diverse ing between all participants. However. participating teachers provided any indication that children had difficulty using scientific academic language and the Acknowledgments This work was funded by the Improving Tea- Project’s three key inquiry skills of predicting. Without the requisite knowledge. Creating in young even more so within their own schools. Only when these external con- The participating teachers in Project SMART provide straints are removed will our primary grades teachers truly evidence that young children flourish with active science have the ‘‘right’’ to teach science and cultivate primary education. We believe attention to time and Working Smarter trust is necessary to assist teachers engaging in novel. systemic change to occur. as a natural way to include science in their instructional schedule. Young children’s ability to learn sci- to teach in this integrated manner. extended time is not only necessary for researchers provide further support for the proposition that acquisition of deep content. which impose threats to such integrated Learning from Children approaches. teachers in this study reported having little of classroom practice—and in viewing PD providers as true time to teach science. in our case. cher Quality State Grants Program (Award 07-412) of the California and explaining. forces external to the classroom. 2007. must also be reformed for any type of lasting. of diverse backgrounds to come together around a common teachers created an adult community of learners and a scholastic endeavor and build their social capacities as well ‘‘shared understanding’’ of instruction and young chil- as content knowledge. virtually none of the cated they were able to do within this project. and participation in Project SMART. science content and pedagogy faculty were Closing Thoughts instrumental in assisting teachers to move their skills forward. Through obser- mathematics—simultaneously provides a way for children vation of peers’ instruction and candid discussions after. Teachers in Project SMART found the collaboration with will ultimately support changes in the way we approach peers highly significant. as they so clearly communi- Project who were English learners. for teachers to feel they have ‘‘permission’’ science instruction. It is hoped that providing examples of successful. and sharing the voices of teachers who experience such involvement.324 Early Childhood Educ J (2015) 43:317–326 added). and. perhaps due to their prior lack of confidence or Learning from the Experts limited science content knowledge. inte- grated approaches to long-term professional development Learning from One Another and content instruction. Project SMART enabled teachers to create exemplary lessons in which Participating teachers indicated the caliber of instruction teachers taught science in conjunction with other subjects.

and explain. represent name. know fantasy/real plants/ animals Investigation and experimentation: Observe objects using 5 senses. SWBAT predict what they might look like as adults and explain why 2. and extend simple patterns Math reasoning: Determine the approach. explain the need for a thermometer Additional hands on activities 1. count recognize. We need 5 senses: SWBAT explain that they obtain more information if the use more than one sense to identify substances 6. you will practice these three skills all year long Predict–Observe–Explain emphasis Students will be able to (SWBAT) demonstrate basic prediction. and strategies. compare and sort objects. Good readers and writers also predict observe. identify. How close can you get: Students explain how stimuli are perceived differently on different areas of the body Related readings The Mitten (Brett 1989) At home ideas Sense walk: Students go through one room in their home and using sight. observe by testing. and explain. observe changing temperature of children’s hands under different conditions. compare familiar objects by common attributes Statistics: Pose information observations. While reading the stories. weight and capacity of objects. and explanation skills Science standards Physical science: Describe objects Life science: Compare plants/animals.Early Childhood Educ J (2015) 43:317–326 325 Appendix See Table 2. describe common objects. and explain results 3. larger numbers describe sets with more objects Addition: Identify. describe. make precise calculations and check validity Science basal text activities 5 senses Observing properties: sink or float Sorting/classifying objects Observing magnetic properties Tech activities Learning to Use Go!Temp—observe the temperature of different objects. Colorful eyes: Students P–O–E eye color found most frequently among children in the classroom 4. and classify objects by attribute Measurement: compare the length. communicate observations Math standards Number sense: Compare two or more sets. Based on photographs of their families. use tools and strategies. and touch they observe at least 10 objects in the room and have an adult write down their observations 123 . Table 2 Sample kindergarten Reading theme Look at Us! unit SMART theme Thinking like a scientist: Scientists predict observe. and order. collect data. describe object’s position. record the results. observation. Lifesaver Lab: SWBAT predict how fruit and mint lifesavers will taste with nose open and closed. explain differences Are we cool or what? Predict. Sound is vibrations: Students P–O–E sounds of different size bottles 5. identify and describe common geometric objects. materials. smell. explain the reasoning used. explain differences Why do we need thermometers? Determine if touch is adequate to measure temperature. understanding of concepts of time. sort.

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