20 January 2009

Question #2 for Elementary Educators

Many thanks to those of you who commented on the question in the previous post. In addition to posting here, I had a few answers via Twitter and a few in person conversations to add to the mix. I'm not going to claim I've had a representative sample...and I also can't claim that there is much in the way of consensus, either. Like most things that have to do with schools, "the answer" rarely exists. But I am glad that you all have helped narrow things down. That is most helpful.

So, here is part two of the assignment I need your help in completing.

Suppose you had access to a science specialist at your school---someone who would teach science lessons a couple of times a week (in the same sense with which you might access PE, library, music...). Would you welcome science specialists for delivering science instruction to students---and what obstacles do you see in implementing it?

For example, maybe it's an awesome idea, but you just don't have a spare classroom...or the schedule is packed as it is. (Secondary educators rarely believe me when I tell them how difficult elementary schedules can be to build. They think they have the market cornered.) Or perhaps you wouldn't want a specialist because there are things you learn about your kids or places you like to connect the curriculum.

Nearly every educator I know is working in a school where budgets are being cut...and the most expensive portion of a school budget is people. Perhaps adding people, in this sense, is not a feasible option, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth pursuing if the payoff for kids would be worth it. (Side note: I would SO leave my current job if I could be an elementary science specialist.) If nothing else, it might serve as a reminder that legislators need to put their money where their collective mouth is.

What do you think?


Ryan said...

I've literally been BEGGING for something like this to happen in my district ever since I walked in the door 10 years ago. I'd welcome an elementary science specialist in a heartbeat, and I think just about everyone in my 600 student pre-6 school would as well.

The problems I could see would be the district limits on prep time for elementary teachers; in some places, where there are only 150 minutes or less available, the science specialist would run into the art, music, PE, and Library specialists as well. I think that a creative district could work around that by swapping things up during the year (e.g., some teachers have art first semester, some have science, you switch over at mid year).

Similarly, adding in one more prep could be the bane of many building schedule makers, especially those schools that have protected blocks of time for reading or math. It'd be a question of values; those buildings that value science would make it work.

Angela Watson said...

Many schools in our district include science as a special. The idea is for the kids to have lab time, but with only 30 minute blocks, this is difficult. At my school, the kids have science two days in a row, so that's an hour for each investigation. It's working fairly well because we can devote our class time to direct instruction/practice and lab time to hands-on activities.

The kids don't like it, though--they think specials should be things like PE and art. Science is too academic! ;-)

Jenny said...

I'd love to have a science lab and science specialist, but I don't want my students to go alone. I'd like to co-teach with that person. That way I could expand my ability to teach science well and help my students make connections at other times throughout the day. Science is a subject that is full of opportunities to connect to other curricular areas and to our students' lives. I wouldn't want to lose those possibilities.

Anonymous said...

I am a K-5 MST Specialist in my building but my main focus is on science. Teachers are not scheduled to bring kids to my room on a regular basis (like PE, Art, and Music) but rather they schedule time on an as needed basis to work on long-term projects and inquiry-based lessons. Since many elementary teachers are experts in literacy instruction, they don't have the background in constructivism and inquiry. The goal with the MST position is a "job-embedded" model of professional development. Teachers stay with their kids during the instruction and can see how a 5E lesson plays out in the classroom. They can experience different levels of inquiry (guided to more open-ended) alongside their students. As they start to feel more comfortable, they begin to co-teach and then eventually are able to replicate the instructional approach to teaching science and math in their own classroom. There are definitely pros and cons to the model, so feel free to contact me with any further questions. Hope this helps!