One of our greatest priorities is the production and dissemination of research and teaching strategies for science in early childhood. The following are publications from the National Center for Science in Early Childhood faculty and collaborators.
Teaching Strategies and Related Articles
Practical Tools to Begin Implementing the NGSS in a First Grade Classroom
by Crystal Howe, Nicole Hawke, and William Straits
This article develops from professional development work with 1st grade teachers to explore sound and light waves, while highlighting practical tools to help implement NGSS in classrooms. These tools included a KLEWS chart (Hershberger & Zembal-Saul, 2015) to focus science learning, a field trip structured to create opportunities for students to share their science thinking, and the Engineering Design Cycle.
California Classroom Science - May 2016
5E and ELL: Building inquiry–based science lessons: An authentic context for English language development
by Susan Gomez Zwiep, William Straits, and Jo Topps
Describes a lesson planning strategy developed with K-2 grade teachers. Strategy sequences important language supports in the context of a science lesson.
Science and Children – October 2015
Sorting Activities for Preschoolers
by William C. Ritz
Focused on the science process skill of sorting, this chapter in Exploring Math and Science in Preschool published by NAEYC describes for teachers several sorting activities and shares ideas for how to help preschool children develop this important skill.
Exploring Math and Science in Preschool – May 2014
Methods and Strategies: Birds of a Feather
by William Ritz and William Straits
This article provides ideas and techniques to enhance your science teaching as you guide preK-2nd grade children through investigations of birds. Several bird-related activities are described. The focus across these activities is to enhance students’ innate sense of wonder about the natural world; to encourage and build on their curiosity by engaging in science processes such as observing, comparing, measuring, and experimenting.
Science and Children - March 2013
Living or Nonliving?
by Britt Legaspi and William Straits
This article describes lessons on life science and classification that address first-grade students’ misconceptions about living and non-living things. This series of lessons is designed to help students practice their observation skills, ask questions, and articulate their own reasoning to others.
Science and Children - April/May 2011
by Lisa Gross, Jeff Goodman, William Straits, and Leslie Bradbury
Digital photography energizes students and focuses their attention on their environment. The personal connection to science helps students develop a habit of mind in which everything they see inside or outside of school can prompt them to wonder and investigate. This article describes how first grade students explore their school grounds with cameras in search of science and wind up learning about how things rust.
Science and Children - December 2010
by Susan Gomez Zwiep and William Straits
This article shares a successful strategy for using anthropomorphic texts for deep and accurate science learning for primary students. To involve students in the analysis of anthropomorphisms, you will need a collection of nonfiction and fiction books related to a particular animal for each group of students. You may wish to have multiple sets if you want all the groups to discuss the same animal.
Science and Children - November 2006
Sense of Wonder Science
by Gregory Potter and William Ritz
Kids who do hands-on science are eager to talk about, write about, and read about their experiences. Those of us who have tried it know that this is true, but it's still one of the best-kept secrets of the world of education! Through the project "A Head Start on Science" at California State University, Long Beach, educators have been working with Head Start teachers, children and their parents since 1995, and their observations have convinced them that is referred to as "sense of wonder" science consistently opens the door for teachers who are anxious to have their children meet the many language and literacy goals and standards called for at every level.
Science and Children - October 2006
Research Articles and Presentations
Straits, W. (2018). Summary of HSOS Research Findings (PDF).
Gomez-Zwiep, S. & Straits, W. J. (2016). The integration of English Language Development and inquiry science into a blended professional development design. In Alandeom Oliveira & Molly Weinburgh (Eds.), ASTE Monograph - Science Teacher Preparation in Content-Based Second Language Acquisition. (pp. 137-150).
Across a 4-year period, a large urban California school district developed and implemented a blended inquiry science and English Language Development (ELD) program in an effort to provide their English language learners opportunities to develop proficiency in English through participation in inquiry-based science. The resulting, “science/ELD blended program,” utilized a combined science/ELD lesson plan format to structure and guide teachers’ efforts to use science as the context for language development. In this paper we describe the development and outcomes of this program. A sample that included 3 school principals, 60 teachers, and over 2,000 students in Kindergarten through 5th grade provides windows into the effectiveness of the program. Implementation of this program resulted in enhanced status for science, increases in students’ English oral language use, and changes in teachers’ understanding of their own teaching practice. Additionally, participating students’ English and science achievement, compared to a similar group of students who were using the district’s established English language development curriculum, demonstrates modest, but statistically significant improvement. Results from this study suggest that restricting instructional minutes for science to provide additional time for ELD and English language arts may be unnecessary. Rather, allowing consistent time for science instruction that incorporates ELD instruction along with inquiry science experiences may provide the authentic and purposeful context students need to develop new language without restricting access to science content.
Straits, W. J., Casillan, R., and Ritz, W. C. (2014, December). "A Head Start on Science" Professional Development Workshops. Presented at the western regional meeting of the Association for Science Teacher Education. Long Beach, CA.
Limited class time devoted to science, children’s limited science understanding (as compared to language arts and math), and teachers’ perceived lack of confidence and preparation for science teaching in early childhood classrooms is well documented. Many attribute these short-comings, in part, to limited science-related professional development opportunities available to teachers of young children. However, there are now increased efforts to support preschool teachers’ implementation of science, including the A Head Start on Science a five-day professional development institute designed to help early childhood educators to provide quality science learning experiences. We used the Preschool Teacher Attitudes and Beliefs toward Science Teaching (P-TABS) questionnaire (Maier, Greenfield, and Bulotsky-Shearer, 2013) to investigate Teacher Comfort and Child Benefit ratings of 49 pre-school teachers that elected to participate in our HSOS summer institute. These participants came from many different school sites, but all teach within a densely populated and ethnically diverse urban area within Southern California. Participating teachers increased significantly (p<0.0001) in their comfort with teaching science; their valuing of the child benefits of science increased, although not significantly.
Gomez-Zwiep, S. & Straits, W. J. (2013). Inquiry science: The gateway to English language proficiency. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 24(8), 1315-1331.
This paper presents findings from a 4-year project that developed and implemented a blended inquiry science and English Language Development (ELD) program in a large urban California school district. The sample included over 2,000 students in Kindergarten through 5th grade. Participating students' English and science achievement was compared to a similar group of students who were using the district’s established English language development curriculum. Student performance on state-mandated English and science assessments were analyzed using Mann–Whitney U tests for overall performance and by number of years of treatment. Modest but statistically significant improvement was found for students who participated in the blended program. Results from this study suggest that restricting instructional minutes for science to provide additional time for ELD and English language arts may be unnecessary. Rather, allowing consistent time for science instruction that incorporates ELD instruction along with inquiry science experiences may provide the authentic and purposeful context students need to develop new language without restricting access to science content.
Gomez-Zwiep, S., Straits, W. J., Stone, K., Beltran, D., and Furtado, L. (2011). The integration of English language development and science instruction in elementary classrooms. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 22(8), 769-785.
This paper explores one district's attempt to implement a blended science and English Language Development (ELD) elementary program, designed to provide English language learners opportunities to develop proficiency in English through participation in inquiry-based science. This process resulted in blended program that utilized a combined science/ELD lesson plan format to structure and guide teachers’ efforts to use science as the context for language development. Data, collected throughout the first two years of the program, include teacher-generated lesson plans, observation notes, and interviews with teachers and principals. The process by which the blended program was developed, the initial implementation of the program, the resulting science/ELD lesson plan format, and teachers' perceptions about the program and its impact on their students are described.
A Head Start on Science: Encouraging a Sense of Wonder, Second Edition
by William C. Ritz and William Straits
For the littlest scientists, the whole wide world can be a laboratory for learning.Nurture their natural curiosity with A Head Start on Science, a treasury of 89 hands-on science activities specifically for children ages 3 to 6.
The activities are grouped into seven stimulating topic areas: the five senses, weather, physical science, critters, water and water mixture, seeds, and nature walks.
Because the activities have been field-tested by more than a thousand Head Start teachers over 10 years, you’ll find this collection unusually easy to use in a variety of settings, including elementary schools, pre-K programs, and day care. In addition to clear background and a helpful materials list, you get step-by-step procedures and help preparing for comments and questions children may pose. Each activity ends with a reproducible Family Science Connection—in both English and Spanish—to send home so the whole family can share a learning experience that’s both simple and pleasant.
Thanks to a focus on the fun of exploration and discovery, children probably won’t be the only ones who find these activities irresistible. As Editor Bill Ritz writes in the Introduction, “We hope your own sense of wonder will be heightened as you observe children and as their curiosity leads them to answer their own questions about everything they see, hear, smell, and touch.”
NSTA Press – April, 2019
A Head Start on Life Science: Encouraging a Sense of Wonder
by William Straits
Nurture curiosity and even joy in the youngest scientists. The 24 inquiry-based lessons in this lively collection show you how. The activities are organized into sections on animals, plants, and nature walks. Rather than merely presenting science facts to 3- to 7-year-olds, you’ll prompt them to make discoveries of their own. They’ll explore critter camouflage, probe pumpkin insides, make bird feeders, and more.
A Head Start on Life Science is as easy to use as it is inspiring. Each lesson includes lists of learning objectives and required materials, relevant background to help you prepare, plus at-home activities written in English and Spanish. Connections to multiple subjects—including reading, writing, math, dramatic play, and art—let you offer related learning opportunities. Extensions help you relate the science to children’s everyday lives and encourage them to explore with their families.
You can use A Head Start on Life Science in preschools, elementary schools, informal science settings, home schools—anywhere you want to engage children in meaningful, longer-lasting science learning. The book is a follow-up to NSTA’s popular A Head Start on Science. Like that treasury of science activities, this collection is designed to heighten children’s sense of wonder about the natural world.
NSTA Press – March, 2018