Not long ago, anyone hanging around a classroom at science time might have thought that the end of the world was near. At least that's what Shelley Lake, a first-grade teacher at Timpanogos Elementary School, says was the case before Provo School District developed science kits.
Now, she says, all the whining and moaning about the study of science are gone thanks to the kits, which enable teachers to give students hands-on experience in science."We put in the teacher's hand items that make science fun and interesting," said Kathy Luke, Provo School District's elementary educational curriculum director. "This gets them outside the textbook and into the real world of science."
For example, Lake's first-graders are learning about heat and matter (solids, liquids and gases). Students get to see how butter turns to liquid when it is heated, and how liquid gelatin turns into a solid when it is cooled.
Later in the year they will learn about land forms. Each kit is a 10-day study unit that contains not only materials for experiments, but also worksheets, tests, and slides and videos when necessary.
"This is not just a basic lecture," Lake said. "The students are actually doing it."
The district has put together six kits to be used in various grade levels throughout the city. The kits have been introduced this month as part of a district pilot program.
Second-graders will learn about sound production and heat properties, third-graders will learn about electricity and forms of matter, and fourth-graders will learn about ecosystems and basic characteristics of light.
The fifth-grade class will study structural and behavioral adaptations of animals, and atoms, elements, compounds and mixtures. The sixth-grade class will learn about one-celled organisms and groups of arthropods, and how diseases spread.
"The idea of the science kits is that it puts the materials in the teacher's hands," Luke said. "If they do not have the items collected, they usually have to buy them. That requires a lot of materials and a lot of the teacher's time and money."
Lake said, "I'm excited about the kits. There is nothing worse than not having the supplies for an experiment. Sometimes they are not easy to get, and supplies can get too expensive. If they are there, then we can do it."
Lake, the developer of the heat and matter science kit, said she has always had an interest in science, but many of her co-workers are not as interested in teaching the subject. With the science kits, they have the ideas and materials they need.
"Everything is in the kit," she said. "It is all outlined."
If the kits are a success in the elementary levels, Luke said more kits will be added and the science kit concept may expand to the secondary levels.
Lake and other teachers throughout the district were paid a flat fee to develop the kits, Luke said. Each kit cost less than $100 to assemble.
"There is so much focus on teaching the basics - like language arts and math - that there is a tendency for teachers not to have a strong background in science," Luke said. "Sometimes they put science on the back burner. Hopefully if we provide the basic things, teachers will feel more comfortable expanding science."
Lake said, "I don't think we teach science enough and make it exciting enough. There is a stigma that girls don't like science. I want to change that stigma. I want kids to like it and be excited."