Working with elementary science has brought all sorts of new learning experiences to my doorstep. I never thought I'd need to have conversations about the best ways to keep worms alive and well...find the cheapest source for puppy training pads...or how to get teachers to think outside the kit.
Sixth grade has a few activities that list pennies as an item; but teachers don't really need them. They just need something to add weight. It could be anything: dirt, beans, rice, salt, water. There's nothing magical about using the pennies. Right now, teachers are skipping activities with pennies on the list because they don't have this item. We've told them it's okay to substitute items, but there's a lack of lateral thinking.
This isn't the only grade level where this is happening. I think part of the problem is that teaching elementary is already too big of a job: 30 minutes of planning time when a teacher is responsible for teaching all content areas (including set up time for science). They just want to be able to pull out the exact item and move on. I do understand that...but what disturbs me is that those teachers haven't thought about the concept they're teaching. It's all just a series of steps and not a cohesive idea. They only see trees and not a forest. How must their kids' understanding of science then be?