For four years, I taught science every morning from 8:20AM – 9:10AM. I had a third and fourth grade combination that period because the third-grade teacher and I had swapped a couple of subjects. She took my Art class and I took her Science class. I thought that was a pretty good deal. I put together a two year curriculum so I could cover the material and standards for both grades. Students bounded happily into the classroom every morning wondering what science they were going to do. It was an awesome way to start my day and I think they would say the same.
I often reflect on the years when I had that 8:20AM science class. I have thought about what it offered me as a teacher. The benefits of the situation far outnumbered the obstacles. It was difficult to get 40 students into my classroom, and I had to have double the science supplies. The benefits were students had science class every day, they did countless hands-on investigations, and they learned the content. I, on the other hand, got so much more out of it. My pedagogical content knowledge was given an enormous boost from the experience, and I think I am still reaping the benefits of that now.
One thing I wished I would have had when teaching that 8:20AM science class was the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Why? Because I would have had guidance on how to connect all the science learning students need to prepare for the future, and I would have been able to cover more than content through what is called three-dimensional learning. The three dimensions Included in the NGSS are: Scientific and Engineering Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas. By employing these three things together, a teacher can be guided to teach with more engagement and relevancy in exploring complicated science topics. Another tool in the NGSS that I would have liked is using phenomena, observable events to teach in a way so students come to learn about a topic and they figure out why or how something happens.
We had a pretty good 8:20AM science class back in the day, but I’m envious of what teachers in science classes are asked to do today. The NGSS offers an opportunity for teachers to make their science classrooms, student focused to create a community of dynamic learners. Take advantage of free information, explanations, breakdowns, videos, webcasts, and instructional brochures that is out there for this material. You never know when you may have a combined-grade science class first thing every morning of your teaching day.