“I have all the time I need to teach my science content and processes,” said no teacher, ever! When I was an elementary teacher, I often felt pressured to spend more time on math and reading than on science because, after all, those were the subjects tested most often by the state. So, I did my best to weave science into the math and reading curriculum, whenever I could. However, I never felt that my students received the depth of what I could expose them to with additional time.
Moving to middle school, grade six, I was thrilled to think that I had dedicated time for science because we were governed by a bell schedule. However, as testing season came around, students were pulled from classes to receive interventions for, you guessed it, math and reading.
Do We Need Dedicated Science Time?
So the question becomes, do we really need that time? The answer is a resounding yes! In, A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas, published by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, the committee emphasizes that greater improvements in K-12 science and engineering education will be made when all components of the system—from standards and assessments, to support for new and established teachers, to providing sufficient time for learning science—are aligned with the framework’s vision. In, Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, published by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, the report states, “Overall, the decrease in time for science education is a concern because some research suggests that interest in science careers may develop in the elementary school years. School districts should devote adequate instructional time and resources to science in grades K-5.” The NSTA Position Statement for Science Education for Middle Level Learners recommends that middle level administrators support their science programs by “supporting the recommended time allotted for middle level laboratory investigations.
As middle level educators, some of us may be in a K-6 building, while others may be at 6-8, or even 7-9 buildings. What can we do to promote the allotment of adequate instructional time? Knowledge is power, as the old adage goes. Arm yourselves with the data and research that supports your assertion and ask to have a discussion with your administrators. According to the, Improving STEM Curriculum and Instruction: Engaging Students and Raising Standards, brief by the Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education, “The problem is not simply academic; it is economic. If the U.S. fails to increase the number of students mastering STEM content and preparing for STEM careers, the nation will fall farther and farther behind in the global economy—and that affects us all.” Raising the awareness of our administrators, school boards and parents is one of the first steps to creating change.
What are some ways YOU have addressed the issues of adequate instructional time for science? Please share your comments with us.
Mary Patterson, a 2014-2015 Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow, 2014-2015 PBS Digital Innovator, and 2009 NOAA Teacher at Sea, has over 30 years of classroom teaching experience at both the elementary and middle school levels. Currently, she is the Campus Content Instructional Specialist for Science, Grades 6 through 8, at Hopper Middle School in Cypress Fairbanks ISD in Cypress, Texas.
Get more involved with NSTA! Join today and receive Science Scope, the peer-reviewed journal just for middle school teachers; connect on the middle level science teaching list (members can sign up on the list server); or consider joining your peers for Meet Me in the Middle Day (MMITM) at the National Conference on Science Education in Nashville this spring (sign up to present at MMITM here).