When my husband and I made the decision to move abroad, we knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime. It was a chance to learn a new language and culture, meet new people, travel, and see the world from a different perspective.
For me, it also meant beginning a new stage in my teaching career, as an international educator. I was so curious: how would international schools in Switzerland differ from public schools in the United States? What would the International Baccalaureate (IB) be like? How would becoming an international school teacher change me and my teaching?
It has been two months now since I returned to teaching, and I’ve begun to answer these questions. Over the past four weeks, I’ve also been taking a class about implementing the IB’s program for primary school students (called the Primary Years Program, or PYP). This post is a way to synthesize what I’ve learned so far.
Being an elementary school teacher is hard for many reasons, not the least of which is you have to be a master of every discipline (as well a psychologist, caregiver, etc.). One discipline that seems especially tough for people is science. I often hear from colleagues that they feel like they lack the background knowledge they need to be effective science teachers. Many colleagues who have science kits teach only those lessons, and colleagues who have less well-defined programs aren’t sure where to start.
There are good reasons to feel this way. First, many of us had few experiences with science (and probably none with engineering) when we were in elementary school. I remember hatching chicks in first grade, and that’s about it. Second, women, who make up the vast majority of elementary teachers, have historically been discouraged from pursuing the sciences. Third, while many of us read and write as part of our daily lives, fewer people see science the same way. And if you live in an urban area, it may feel like opportunities for experiencing the natural world are few and far between.
I want to share some very simple, but profound ways to get started with science in your elementary classroom. Or, if you teach from a science kit (I do too — there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel), I want to share some ways to get back to fundamentals and do science with your kids outside. Continue reading