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Hands-on Learning Science Units for Elementary School
This series of easy-to-implement science lessons for grades kindergarten through five is aimed at educators and undergraduates or other volunteers who regularly work with teachers in the classroom. They were developed for a Williams College Outreach Program that places undergraduates in local classrooms as science assistants and teaches them to use a hands-on approach to expose children to the thought processes of scientific discovery. The kindergarten science lessons focus on the senses, plant growth and change, animals, the seasons, habitats, and the properties of objects. The first-grade units explore solids, liquids, and gases; air, wind, and sun; and fossils. River science is the focus of the second-grade lessons. In third grade, students investigate matter and weather and water cycles. The fifth-grade lessons deal with the ways living things adapt to their environments and the behaviors they use to survive. [There are no units currently available for grade four.] Inquiry skills, such as making predictions, naming and using simple equipment and tools, and recording observations and data, are a key part of each unit. A document describing the overall themes and driving questions and a list of all materials needed are available for each grade. Links to two documents developed for the outreach program, General Teaching Techniques and and Teaching the Scientific Method, are provided in the “related links” section of this resource.
Program Director: Wendy E. Raymond, Ph.D.
Award Years: 1991, 1993, 1996, 2000, 2004
Summary: Williams College is a private baccalaureate institution in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Its HHMI-funded educational initiatives include:
- Summer and academic year laboratory research opportunities at Williams and the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) for students, including underrepresented minorities and women, with opportunities to present research results at professional meetings;
- A summer technology institute for teachers from Williamstown Elementary School, which has resulted in the integration of inquiry-based science lesson plans, developed during the summer, into the curriculum;
- A science assistants program that brings Williams undergraduates into the classrooms of area elementary schools to help facilitate the teaching of science;
- The improvement of area high schools’ science laboratories, including the expansion of AP Biology’s molecular investigations, the development of sports medicine labs, and the use of a faculty-staff team to teach introductory college-level chemistry labs; and
- Postdoctoral fellowships in the college’s interdisciplinary program in bioinformatics, genomics, and proteomics, which give future faculty members teaching and research experiences.