Not only does state law require weekly science instruction in grades K-5, but research suggests that students’ core attitudes about science develop during elementary school. It is a legal requirement to teach science weekly at the elementary level and meet science standards (whether those are state or locally created). Here is that legal language (from PI 8):
“In grades kindergarten through 4, regular instruction shall be provided in reading, language arts, social studies, mathematics, science, health, physical education, art and music. In this subdivision, 'regular instruction' means instruction each week for the entire school term in sufficient frequency and length to achieve the objectives and allocation of instructional time identified in the curriculum plans developed and adopted under par. (k).”
Furthermore, PI 8 goes on to say that districts must have a clear curriculum plan for science in grades K-12:
"Each school district board shall develop, adopt and implement a written school district curriculum plan which includes the following: A kindergarten through grade 12 sequential curriculum plan in each of the following subject areas: reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, health, computer literacy, environmental education, physical education, art and music... Each sequential curriculum plan shall specify objectives, course sequence, course content, resources, an objective process of determining whether pupils attain the specified objectives, and an allocation of instructional time by week, semester and school term. The school district board shall establish in the school district curriculum plan the allocation of instructional time, by week, semester and school term, among all subject areas."
Teachers are in a difficult position with regards to finding sufficient time for science if administration does not support that work. But, if community stakeholders formally complain, it can be a big deal that the school isn’t meeting its legal requirements. DPI can get involved and audit those science programs. The rigor of the new science Forward Exam should provide some motivation to improve and extend science programs, but a better reason is that it's the right thing for students! See some reasons why in the articles below.
- Planning Early for Careers in Science - From an article from the prestigious journal, Science, “our study does suggest that to attract students into the sciences and engineering, we should pay close attention to children’s early exposure to science at the middle and even younger grades”
- Why Early Childhood Science Instruction is Important - Article from science guru Steve Spangler
- Why Do We Need to Teach Science in Elementary School? - Report from the federally funded STEM Teaching Tools group
- Need for Science and Social Studies Learning for Strong Literacy Skills - short video of a talk by Professor Nell Duke, Univ of Michigan
- Science-Centered Curriculum in Elementary School - old ASCD article (showing a long-time emphasis) that advocates for science as a focus in elementary curriculum
- Becoming a Math [or Science] Person - an article from Harvard talking about how students' perception of being a math person or not starts very early - also applicable to whether they see themselves as a science/STEM person or not
- Adults Can Sabotage a Student’s Path in Science or Math - students are constantly receiving messages about science and mathematics, creating anxiety for many of them and leading them to believe they're not "science or math people"
- Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Policy Brief on Elementary Science - research-based overview on the importance of elementary science
- National Science Teachers Association Position Statement on Elementary Science - "Inquiry science must be a basic in the daily curriculum of every elementary school student at every grade level."
- Ready, Set, Science – report from the National Research Council detailing what effective K-8 instruction should look like and why it's essential
- Wisconsin STEM Blog - importance of elementary science and suggestions for making time for it
Many elementary teachers report that they don’t have time for science. In fact, some Wisconsin schools support no science specific time in grades K-2, which is clearly not adequate for preparing students for our 21st century world. Students decide from a very young age whether or not they are "science or math people." so we have to dispel the myth that there are science or math people. Administrators in particular face the challenge of figuring out ways to support science teaching with current testing and state policy demands. It's important to figure out how effective science teaching can boost mathematics and reading scores (and better engage students), not detract from other education efforts.