Here’s to Elementary Science!

This year MBEF is proud to continue support for our district’s Elementary Science Progam – specifically, the Science Specialists at each of our five elementary schools. We sat in recently on one of their collaboration meetings, where they were working out the details of a future lab on Wet Cell Batteries. We talked with them about their backgrounds, their goals for the program, and the benefits of having each other as colleagues.

MBEF: Why is this program important?

Susan Holton, Pennekamp (BS, Human Biology, Stanford; Teaching Credential/Masters Edu., UCLA; 6 years classroom teacher; parent of three students in MBUSD): It is only through the Science Labs that the students are able to have such enriching hands-on science activities.  The planning, purchasing of supplies, set-up, and clean up is too much for a regular classroom teacher to easily manage.  In addition, it would not be reasonable for the school to have the necessary supplies for each teacher.  For example: a set of high quality microscopes for each class would be very costly.  Science is very exciting and needs to be brought to life through hands-on activities.

MBEF: How does the ability to work as a team through collaboration strengthen the program:

Katherine Whittaker Stopp, Robinson (BA, Sociology and Business UCLA; Elementary Teaching Credential CSULB, MA Educational Technology Pepperdine; currently working on Administrative Credential CSULB; 17 years classroom teacher K-8; Science ;Specialist for 4 years): Collaborating with the other specialists makes for a better overall program for the district and success for the students.

Kristina Atia, Pacific (BA, Liberal Studies; Elementary Education Credential; Currently working on Master’s degree in Science Education; Prior to MBUSD, Science Conference Presenter and Curriculum Designer): I agree. Collaboration is key to the program’s success.  The science specialists have the opportunity to share what worked and didn’t work in labs in order to help make the labs that we teach more effective for the students.  We talk to one another to figure out how to maximize student learning and because of that I believe that this program works very well.

MBEF:What are some of your goals for the program:

Joanne Michael, Meadows (Bachelors Elementary Education, Masters in Teaching, currently working on Masters in Science Curriculum and Instruction (to be completed spring 2012). Previously taught 8th grade Physical Science in Perris, CA.): When children see how much fun science can be early on, using hands-on techniques and strategies specifically geared for younger kids, it will not scare them off later, when they are in middle and high school. Too often middle school students come into science with such a defeatist attitude, and it’s that attitude that keeps them from succeeding later on. We want to stop that attitude!

MBEF: What long-term effects do you hope elementary science will have?

Tanya Sanchez, Grand View (BS Biological Sciences – UC Riverside,  MA, Education – Claremont Graduate University): I strongly believe that science and technology are our future, I just hope to inspire kids to be critical thinkers that will make our world a better place to live.  I hope they feel empowered to protect the environment and are curious about their world so they can develop new medicines, machines, and inventions.

MBEF: Is there a philosophy that you believe sums up your feelings about hands-on learning in elementary science:

Susan Holton, Pennekamp: There’s a Chinese Proverb:

I hear and I forget,

I see and I remember,

I do and I understand.

Tanya Sanchez, Grand View: Albert Einstein said:

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”


MBEF: Were you all science fans when you were kids?

Kristina Atia, Pacific: I never had any good experiences in my science classes.  Every science class I had we were either reading out of the textbook and answering questions or listening to a lecture and taking notes.  Because of these experiences, I had always thought that science was my worst subject.  It was not until I got into college and joined a program called Science FEST (Future Elementary School Teachers) that I realized that I really like science and was interested in teaching it.

Susan Holton, Pennekamp: I loved dissecting! – worms, eyeball, rat, and frog. These hands-on activities are what I remember most clearly.  I also remember using the microscopes.

Katherine Whittaker Stopp, Robinson: I don’t have fond memories of science before high school because we did not do many hands-on activities.

Tanya Sanchez, Grand View: In third grade we dissected a frog and I was hooked.  I think I brought a body part home from school and my
mom let me freeze it!

Joanne Michael, Meadows: I don’t remember that much elementary school science, other than growing a plant in the window. But in 8th grade, my science teacher was so enthusiastic about science, having us do all different projects and dissections, that I knew I wanted to be a science teacher.

MBEF: How does your program complement classroom lessons?

Susan Holton, Pennekamp: Of course it takes effort and time to stay in contact with the teacher and come up with labs that work with their classroom lessons. But because of that, the kids are able to understand more fully what they are learning in the regular classroom when they can experience hands-on activities in the Science Lab.  When the kids have a basic knowledge of the topic from their regular classroom, we are able to move a bit quicker covering the material in the Science Lab and spend more time with the activity.

MBEF: Any advice for parents?

Katherine Whittaker Stopp, Robinson: Science is all around us! Take advantage of opportunities to talk about science as much as possible so that your child doesn’t think about science as something that only happens at school

Kristina Atia, Pacific: Exactly. This is the time to foster the enthusiasm for science with the curiosity that is so prevalent with this age group.

MBEF: Anything else you’d like to add?

Joanne Michael, Meadows: This is an amazing program that is so beneficial to our kids. Thank you for donating to MBEF and supporting us!

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About Manhattan Beach Education Foundation

Manhattan Beach Education Foundation is an independent 501 (c) 3 non-profit established by parents and community leaders to support quality public education in Manhattan Beach. Since 1983, MBEF has granted much needed funds to supplement state funding and has helped MBUSD continually rank in the top three school districts in California. With more than 3,000 donors and annual grants exceeding $5 million, MBEF is one of the oldest and most successful foundations in the state.