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Working Hard-2.jpgNot everyone thinks about primary sources when planning science lessons for students in lower elementary.

However, teaching students to rely on facts and evidence as close to the reference point as possible is an incredible way to build critical thinking early on.

The good news is that science primary sources are everywhere:

How does the classroom clock work?

What about the SMART board?

The telephone?

Why, sometimes, can students see both the moon and the sun from the window?

How do weather scientists know when to warn schools about upcoming storms?

Here are some additional resources and ideas for making primary sources a centerpiece of your science instruction, even in lower elementary!

  1. Start a Garden. This may sound overwhelming, but remember that you can start small with a few tomato plants in the classroom or a small plot of flowers near the playground. GardenABC’s is an incredible resource that includes not only a step-by-step guide to starting your project but also access to grant applications and literature links. No matter how you start, teaching students about  gardening unlocks for them one of the most incredible primary sources they will ever access.
  2. Use CAD to Build a Structure. Few things are more satisfying than building something that you’re proud of! In this lesson plan, students use a CAD program (Google SketchUp is free!) to design a building or other structure, and then build it using balsa wood. Adjust to suit your classroom and wow parents and administration with student creations! 
  3. Use Resources from Home. Give students the task to go home and find their own science primary sources. Recipes, houseplants, seed packets, light bulbs, batteries, etc.  Have a show-and-tell….what makes your object a science primary source? 
  4. Ask a Biologist.  Block of some time, pour yourself another cup of coffee and explore this amazing website!  You’re going to want to bookmark this one! Staffed by biologists, educators and volunteers, this website not only contains primary sources like a bone-zoom gallery (real images of the inside of bones), but also is searchable by topic, resource, and grade level. Last but not least, you can ask a question for a real biologist! Talk about a primary source! 
  5. Research a Scientist. Introduce students to a lesser-known scientist. (bonus points if it’s a person of color, woman, or other marginalized group that traditionally doesn’t have their contributions recognized!) and have them read a journal entry, study a formula, or analyze a blueprint that they made. Or, give students the job and have each pick a scientist of their own to research and then share a primary source of theirs!   

What primary sources do you rely upon when teaching your lower elementary students? What works for you in your science classroom?


Next Week: Teach your Students Cuneiform (and other ideas for primary sources in social studies)

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