Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Let’s do more experiments in elementary science

It is likely in the weeks ahead, my family and I will be community, house, and school hunting. I am sure one of the main things we’ll be looking for is an elementary school where science (as well as THE ARTS) are highly valued and LOVED by teachers and students alike. A recent issue of TIME magazine asserted:

Children love to explore the natural world but by fourth grade, we squash their curiosity with the way we teach science.

I have to say that my own 2nd grader’s experiences with science in school this year have been VERY poor, except for his science fair project which was a parent-led (rather than teacher-led) activity.

I acknowledge that we don’t need every child in school today to become CISCO certified or become a scientist or engineer. But I certainly think that in the schools I work with and am in, we could be doing a MUCH better job getting kids excited about science and learning in general. For most practical purposes, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that SCHOOL IS NOW OVER in many Texas districts although classes will still be held for several more weeks. Why? Because the statewide testing is over, of course. We have cultivated a mentality in public education today, which is now widespread, that holds our sole purpose for going to school is to take tests. This is called a teleological (or instrumental) educational focus I think. I want my children to be in classrooms where teachers keep on learning and growing with students even after the tests are over, because they understand that they are in school for reasons far more important and noble than test preparation and worksheet completion.

Science experiments have instrumental rationales, of course, but I think there is also a lot of intrinsic motivation that students can have for doing them. Of course, many kids distain the thought of actually dissecting a frog or a pig. But I guarantee you that those experiments are much more educative for those students than all the worksheet activities they did in class all year!

Yes, we need to be doing a better job empowering kids in schools to follow their curiosities and explore their world through science. Hopefully in the weeks and months to come, we’ll find a school where this value is already part of the culture, wherever we end up going.

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8 responses to “Let’s do more experiments in elementary science”

  1. […] From Moving at the Speed of Creativity a great post about science on elementary schools: Let’s do more experiments in elementary science. […]

  2. Brett Moller Avatar

    Hi Wes, I started writing a comment and it turned into a blog entry. Hope you don’t mind the link –to my blog

  3. Linda Avatar

    I would like to think we are a school you would like. While we don’t have a really great science program in some ways, we do have a teachnology rich school with over 200 computers for 450 students.

    We also teach all year no matter when tests are done!

  4. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    That is great Linda, I am glad to hear it! Certainly there are many teachers out there who don’t see “the year as over” once the tests are done. I think that is the general trend in large Texas school districts, but it all comes down to the individual classroom teacher and the culture which he/she has helped create over time with students. 🙂

  5. Brian Crosby Avatar

    Wes – “but it all comes down to the individual classroom teacher and the culture which he/she has helped create over time with students.” – You and others have been talking for a long time about project-based, web 2.0 supported learning et al. And your quote boils it down – where you see the kind of teaching you and I and others value the most it tends to be individuals – where are the schools that do this and can point to success? How about an entire school district? State? Will this kind of teaching work if everyone does it? Or is it an illusion born of being different than kids usually see and so intriguing? Can you give an example of a school that shares this philosophy and practices it? If not how can we ever prove it works? Or do we need to prove it works?

  6. Brett Moller Avatar

    Hi Wes… What timing, I just came across a great radio interview on an amazing science lesson and discussion about teaching science so it is engaging. I have added it to my latest podcast.

    Hope it sparks some interest.

  7. Bob Heiny Avatar

    Thanks for your comments. I understand them. I’ve observed in hundreds of public schools in many states for decades. Two comments.

    Check out They offer comparisons of schools in various locations.

    One of the best elementary schools I’ve seen is University Charter School in Modesto, CA. Great Schools monitors it. The UCS fourth and fifth grade teachers inspired students to meet high standards consistently, with smiles and enthusiasm. Students in other classes seemed as excited about learning as those I noted. While you may not move to Modesto for a school, I hope knowing about UCS offers you some comfort.

  8. Angel Rachel Avatar

    That is great science work online, let’s do more science experiments . I have just found one Kids science education online resource, includes interactive math games and puzzles for experimenting kids.