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Mar 11

Teaching Science to Elementary School Students in 1949/1953

Posted on March 11, 2019 at 1:37 PM by Bill Sowers

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” 
--Carl Sagan

Teaching science to elementary school children requires an inner excitability in demonstrating the wonders of our physical surroundings, and creativity in sharing that excitement with a classroom full of young minds which are already bouncing around like edgy electrons.  The cool thing about science is that one can maintain the attention of those young minds through experiments, demonstrations and experiences that create those "Aha!" moments where a concept becomes a visual or oral reality in front of them.

Educators from across Kansas came together in the late 1940s to discuss how to teach science in a manner that would inspire an interest... even excitement... in learning about science.  Out of this workshop came a guide for science teachers with suggested topics and projects for young students.  Though dated the material here shows an effort to reach out and connect with kids on their level, moving beyond rote memorization and book learning to direct involvement, observation and experience in gaining an understanding of our natural world (and universe).  The authors also encouraged teachers to listen and learn from their students to gauge an understanding of what they already knew... Wow! 

The main chapters of the 1949 edition of the book are as follows:

Introduction: How to Use the Guide -- I. Economic Value of Plants and Animals -- II. Sound and Communication -- III. Nature's Contribution to the Christmas Season -- IV. Wonders of the Sky -- V. Aviation for Boys and Girls -- VI. Water and Its Effect on Man -- VII. Conservation of Natural Resources -- VIII. New Scientific Developments in the Field of Medicine -- IX. Hints to Make Science Functional -- X. Minimum Essentials for a Science Kit for Grades 1-8 -- XI. Inexpensive Science Materials.

Here is an example of some of the topics covered in this book:

"How to make and balance an aquarium -- How to  make and balance a terrarium -- How to make a vivarium -- Diagram to show how plants and animals depend upon  each other -- How to  make a simple telescope -- How to  make a constellarium -- How to grow an indoor desert garden -- How to make a rain gauge -- Important   characteristics  of  animals -- How  to  grow  bacteria -- How  to remove the neck of a bottle -- How to grow flowers for porch boxes -- How to make a sun  dial."

The State Library of Kansas' KGI Online Library has two editions of this book online: