Science kits help districts to inspire students

March 14, 2008

By hammersmith

[Source: Carol Peck, president/CEO, Rodel Foundation of Arizona] — I have fond memories of science projects that captured my imagination as a child. Whether using magnets to generate electrical currents, or charting the growth of tadpoles to frogs, science can be just as exciting in kindergarten as it is in university labs. Unfortunately, sometimes science classes are boring and uninspiring. With the AIMS science test being used for the first time this year, schools will soon be looking for innovative ways to increase their focus on science.

The Scottsdale Unified School District recognized a major barrier to quality science education: Elementary teachers have trouble coming up with the plans and resources to make hands-on science a part of everyday learning. Setting up real scientific exploration requires extensive planning and collection of materials, especially if the intent is to get past the textbook and provide students fun and challenging lessons. “We’ve put together a core of exciting and meaningful science experiences – all packaged in easy-to-use kits and aligned with the Arizona Academic Standards,” Superintendent John Baracy said. “The science center not only provides the necessary materials, but offers training so teachers understand the best methods to present these lessons.”

“Teachers have options to attend sessions on how to use the science kits designed for their classrooms,” said Janie Kaufmann, K-12 science coordinator (reachable at 480-484-5052). “Then they simply order the kit, use the necessary materials, and then return it to the center. We take care of re-supplying, repairing and refurbishing so everything’s ready for the next class. Using district funding, all schools – wealthy or not – have the same level of access to materials and training.”

Gilbert Public Schools also provide science kits for elementary classes. An important component of each unit is the student’s science notebook where students record their observations of classroom experiments in words and drawings just like professional scientists. This exercise strengthens the students’ writing skills and gives teachers valuable feedback about how well students understand concepts from the unit. With the more demanding math and science requirements being instituted at the high-school level, it will be more important than ever for students to learn to love science. Offerings like these will set them on the right path.