Chapter 1: Teaching Science to Children

Introduction to the Book

Each chapter in this book is organized in the following manner:

  • Outlines the Learning Performances for the chapter
  • Opens with interesting questions for students to ponder before reading
  • Starts with scenarios that help students visualize a classroom situation
  • Learning Activities to explore things related to project-based learning
  • Reading material designed to teach important aspects relate to project-based work
  • Call-outs that link the chapter content to the NGSS
  • A Chapter Summary

It is important to note that in Learning Activity 1.1, you will start a portfolio, which can be digital or on paper, which you will use throughout the entire book. In Chapter 10, you will reflect back on their learning from throughout the book.

Key learning performances for Chapter 1 include:

  • Describe the primary features of project-based learning (PBL).
  • Compare and contrast teaching science through project-based learning with reading about science, direct instruction, and process science.
  • Explain how project-based learning reflects the nature of science.
  • Summarize the primary features of PBL and the new Framework for K–12 Science Education and the Next Generation of Science Standards.
  • Explain the value of using project-based learning to meet standards to support all students in learning science.
  • Justify why young learners should learn science.


Watch the following video to help learn more about project-based learning. This is a video from Joseph Krajcik, co-author of this book:

In Chapter 1, we first introduce you to 3D learning advocated by today’s science educators. The following are links to videos that explain the NGSS and 3D learning:

Introduction to 3D Learning:

Introduction to the NGSS:

Here is a link to Paul Andersen’s video series about the NGSS:

How to read the Next Generation Science Standards:

Joe Krajcik on how the Next Generation Science Standards were created:

Joe Krajcik on the Next Generation Science Standards: A vision for science education and the new role of teachers:

Throughout the book, we illustrate PBL with a series of videos of a 7th grade teacher who is teaching about water quality. For Chapter 1, the following videos show the teacher discussing the importance of the stream to students’ lives:

Video of teacher discussing the importance of a stream to student’s lives:

Video of teacher discussing the ways in which the stream is important to students’ lives as well as news articles that complement their research:


Have students examine the Next Generation Science Standards:

Why do we need to teach science in elementary school

Chapter 2: How Children Construct Understanding of Science

Key learning performances

  • Explain the difference between inert and integrated knowledge.
  • Describe the three types of knowledge—content, procedural, and metacognitive.
  • Critique examples of teaching to determine if they represent receptional or transformational approaches to teaching and learning of science.
  • Explain what is meant by social constructivism and describe the various features of a social constructivist model of teaching.
  • Critique lessons using a social constructivist model of teaching.
  • Apply the idea of scaffolding to help children accomplish a difficult learning task.
  • Discuss how authentic tasks help women and minorities participate and stay interested in science.


Here, a 7th grade teacher talks to the students about storm drains, she refers back to their prior knowledge and what scientific terms they have learned that applies to this discussion.

Here, the teacher is talks about the stream and how it developed over time, uses scientific terms, and asks students the meaning of terms before she continues with the explanation.


This article discusses 6 scaffolding strategies teachers can use with students:

Chapter 3: Establishing and Maintaining Relevance to Students’ Lives

Key learning performances

  • Describe a driving question.
  • Explain the features of a driving question.
  • Create driving questions and defend why they are good driving questions.
  • Describe how to help children generate driving questions.
  • Distinguish between driving questions and topic-based questions.
  • Explain the value of using driving questions to teach science.


Listen to the teacher in this video as she explains the process she uses with her students to help them work through the driving question and learn more about science and engineering practices:


This link discusses Edutopia’s advice for creating a driving question:

In this link, co-author, Joe Krajcik lists some features of driving questions:

This article discusses using a driving question board with students:

An article about engaging students in authentic science:

Using everyday experiences to foster science and engineering learning:

Chapter 4: Engaging Students in the Doing of Science

Key learning performances

  • Explain the value of elementary and middle grade students engaging in the doing of science.
  • Clarify the components of the investigative web.
  • Design and carry out investigations with students.
  • Critique and give feedback to elementary and middle grade students on the various components of an investigation.


This video, by Paul Andersen, discusses the science and engineering practice of planning and carrying out an investigation:

In this video, the teacher discusses the different pipes that are connected to the storm drain.  She is asking the students questions to help understand the process of the storm drains. She asks them to write down what they see and continues to explain that they will discuss more about the storm drains as they continue the lesson but points out what the students need to pay attention to for the future.

In this video, the teacher takes the students to another area near the school and asks students to think about the reasons there are ponds built in the urban areas. She allows the students to ask questions and answer her questions without any pressure of being right or wrong. The teacher gives a nice response to students’ ideas about the reasons for the ponds, tells the students they will discuss further about the reasons later on but wants them to think about it.  She is building their ideas and encouraging them to really think about what is going on in the area and this will lead into their investigation into their local stream.


The Investigation Web

Download Figure 4.1

This article discusses support for student investigations:

An article regarding why students should learn to plan and carry out investigations:

Chapter 5: Making Sense of Data and Sharing Findings

Key learning performances

  • Illustrate how to support students in making sense of data.
  • Describe how to draw conclusions.
  • Explain how to support students in constructing and evaluating models.
  • Define the meaning of a scientific explanation.
  • Describe how to support students in making explanations.


In this video, the students have collected data on Dissolved Oxygen (DO) from the stream that runs through their school grounds. The stream was divided into 7 sections and 1 section was allocated to each student group. Each group collected data from 3 locations within its own section. All the data has been written on the white board and video clip starts here. Ann starts a class discussion on the DO data reported by each team and helps them in making inferences from the data in terms of the health of the stream. The numbers reported vary considerably between each group, thus covering a wide range. Ann points out to various factors that can affect the DO content and encourages the students to think about how and why such factors would cause the DO content to vary in different parts of the stream. The students gradually being able to make better sense of the data and get a clearer understanding of DO.

It is towards the end of the semester and the students have conducted various tests to assess the quality of the stream. So far, they have made recommendations in their reports based on individual tests. But the results of all the tests need to be collectively considered to make an overall claim/recommendation. A student asks if he can simply take the average of all the tests. Ann proceeds to explain and discuss how different tests have different weightages, based on analogies and expert opinions.

Here, Paul Andersen discusses developing and using models:
Paul Andersen discusses analyzing and interpreting data:

This video shows young children making claims from evidence:


To use Collabrify Flipbook go to
To use Netlogo go to

To use SageModeler go to

This article discusses modeling in elementary grades:


Download Table 5.4

Chapter 6: Collaboration in the Project-Based Learning Classroom

Key learning performances

  • Describe various types of collaboration that occur in project-based learning environments.
  • Understand the nature of collaboration in the work of scientists and how collaboration supports project-based learning.
  • Explain the role a teacher can play in supporting collaboration.
  • Clarify challenges that a teacher might need to overcome to implement collaborative learning groups.
  • Describe how to help children learn skills needed to work in collaborative groups.
  • Critique project-based learning environments to determine their ability to foster collaborative learning.
  • Design and implement collaborative learning environments that support project-based learning.
  • Explain why collaborative learning is almost always better than individual learning and explain how it particularly helps female and non-majority students pursue science study.


The teacher is presenting the instruction to a game in which the students will develop their collaboration skills and learn what argumentation is and how to discuss and argue their point. Listen to the teacher in the video and how she explains what the students will be doing and how they are using the game to collaborate with each other.

Collaboration vs. Cooperation:  the teacher is presenting a new game to the students, she begins by discussing with the class what collaboration and cooperation mean, how the terms are alike and how they differ.  Uses examples to show the difference between the terms so that the students are prepared to collaborate during the game and begin to use collaborative skills throughout the remaining semester.

This video illustrates children in a science class working as a team:


Five-Square Activity

Download Figure 6.1

Kidblog for promoting safe sharing of writing with others

Intergalactic Mobile ( as a collaborative workspace, WeCollabrify

See for a summary of various elementary and middle grades technologies

This article discusses getting children to talk with each other:

Chapter 7: Instructional Strategies that Support Project-Based Learning

Key learning performances

  • Compare and contrast the reasons for using various types of strategies to teach core science ideas, crosscutting concepts, and science and engineering practices.
  • Explain the value of using transformational instructional strategies to help children make sense of phenomena and design solutions to problems.
  • Justify why graphic organizers, such as concept maps, are useful and create a concept map to help students connect learning across disciplinary core ideas.
  • Distinguish among various types of questions.
  • Explain how the use of community resources and field trips supports project-based learning.
  • Clarify why certain instructional skills, such as wait-time and probing, are important in helping students learn disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts and science and engineering practices.
  • Explain how using a variety of instructional strategies helps diverse learners.


Think about the instructional strategies the teachers are using in these videos:

The teacher explains how to fill out the data chart while they are out at the stream. She also explains the importance of writing something even if the student does not see anything at the stream. The teacher also explains how to graph the data once they have returned with the information from the stream. Note how the teacher reminds the students that they are working together collaboratively and both need to take down the information at the stream.

As the teacher is explaining how the students need to claim what they have found is important she uses an example that is easier for the students to understand. She gives the example of why a basketball player should be chosen to play for a team, she shows the students that you need to support the decision with claims about the basketball player.

The teacher is setting up the game the students will play to develop their collaboration skills.  Goals for the game, they know something, students learn how to collaborate (listen and share), claim, evidence and reasoning, culture of students working together, student-centered, group understand the world, teacher is sitting during the game to show that she is not higher than the students.

Steve Spangler’s “Sick Science” videos on YouTube for ideas for discrepant events:

This video shows elementary students engaging in project-based learning:

This video illustrates ways to support talk in science classrooms:

This video talks about the importance of supporting talk:


The ELA Standards can be found at:

Four excellent sources of discrepant event ideas are Invitations to Science Inquiry by Tik Liem (1987), Brain-Powered Science: Teaching and Learning with Discrepant Events (2010) by Thomas O’Brien, Even More Brain-Powered Science: Teaching and Learning with Discrepant Events (2011) by Thomas O’Brien (the O’Brien books are also both available as e-books)

Tradebooks that can be used to teach science can be found at:

Kidspiration is useful for creating concept maps and graphic organizers:

This article discusses using multiple instructional strategies in science teaching:

This article discusses engaging English Language Learners in science and engineering practices:

This article discusses teaching science in ways that build on indigenous people’s rights:

This article discusses working with indigenous students and families:

Building student and community interests in STEM:

Fostering curiosity through talk:

How teachers can guide classroom conversations:

Chapter 8: Assessing Student Understanding

Key learning performances

  • Explain why classroom-based assessment is a critical component of project-based learning.
  • Compare immediate, close (embedded), proximal, distal, and remote assessments.
  • Explain the value of using various assessment tasks to promote learning for populations of students from diverse backgrounds.
  • Create learning performances and corresponding assessments integrating core science ideas, crosscutting concepts, and science and engineering practices.
  • Justify why a variety of different assessment approaches should be used during different time frames in science classrooms.
  • Create knowledge-in-use assessments that integrate disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts.
  • Describe how a teacher can determine if a test or quiz is well constructed.
  • Justify why artifacts and portfolios are consistent with goals in a project-based environment.
  • Design a scoring rubric to evaluate a performance.
  • Explain the value of assessment for teachers, students, and parents.


The teacher is discussing an article that relates to their lives and what the students are researching; she then asks the students a question to ensure the students’ understand the information she is sharing.


Performance Expectations can be found at:

The Next Generation Science Assessment portal can be found at:

An article discussing the informal formative assessment cycle:

An article about formative assessments for 3D learning:

An article about formative assessments supporting a culturally responsive classroom:

An article about assessments for science and engineering practices:

Steps to designing 3D assessment:

Integrating science and engineering practices into assessment:

Assessment for bi-lingual learners:

Assessing for 3D learning:

Chapter 9: Managing the Science Classroom

Key learning performances

  • Explain how the constructivist framework is useful for thinking about classroom management in project-based learning.
  • Describe how a teacher can create an effective classroom climate.
  • Compare and contrast the reasons for using various types of classroom management strategies.
  • Explain the value of planning classroom management before, during, and after instruction.
  • Justify why equitable classroom practices are necessary for managing project-based learning.
  • Distinguish among various types of safety precautions.


Think about the management strategies the teacher is using in these videos: Video 9.1- Written on the board- homework from previous night, questions for the class for that period. The teacher collects homework at the very start of class. She makes the students aware of what will be turned in by placing a list on the board. The other part of the board has what questions will be discussed in the class that day. This allows the students to begin to think about what they will be learning that class period and prepare for class.

Video 9.2- Second part the teacher presents an example of a paper that was correctly done, she does not say that they were wrong but she shows an example correctly done and allows the students to do the assignment again, she encourages the students by saying that she wants them to get it right and its okay that they may not have understood what they were supposed to write.


NSTA’s safety guidelines can be found at:

Chapter 10: Planning a Project-Based Curriculum

Key learning performances

  • Explain the important factors teachers must consider when planning a project.
  • Describe the steps that can be used to plan a project.
  • Justify why storylines helpful to planning.
  • Create a project-based learning unit of study using the steps presented in the book.
  • Create a daily lesson plan and teach a lesson.
  • Explain the value of integrating science across the curriculum.
  • Judge the quality of a project-based unit.
  • Evaluate your own learning throughout this book.


Discuss how the teacher engages in planning. Video 10.1-Teacher’s summary for the day: scaffolding with a lot of support at the beginning and then slowly moving away and giving the students less and less support as they take more and more responsibilities … as they get more practice, learning how to fill in data sheets, independently working out and problem solving out of the stream, learning how to use computers to graph data.

In this video, Brian Riser discusses using phenomena as the starting point for teaching and 3D lessons:


Planning NGSS Curriculum:

In this article, co-author Joe Krajcik discusses selecting and aligning materials for the NGSS:

How to define meaningful learning objectives:

What are storylines:

Bundling to create storylines:

NGSS Storylines:

Tools for writing storylines:

Example storylines:>

Storyline template:

Link to Common Core Standards for ELA-Literacy:

Link to Common Core for Mathematics (CCSS-M)


Download Table 10.1 Download Table 10.3 Download Table 10.7