The Transylvania Times -

By Jeanne DeJong
Everyday Education 

Hands On/Minds On: Science In Elementary Schools


Last updated 4/22/2013 at 9:24am

“Hands on/Minds on!” That is science in the Transylvania County elementary schools. We use The North Carolina Essential Standards, which are carefully constructed to build scientific concepts from grade to grade. “Unifying” concepts across the grade levels include age appropriate studies of: forces and motion; matter, properties and change; earth systems, structures and processes; earth history; structures and functions of living organisms; ecosystems; evolutions and genetics; and molecular biology.

As students learn method and content in these scientific areas, they are encouraged to ask further questions, investigate ways to answer their questions, make predictions, design experiments, execute tests and trials, make observations, measure and record data and communicate results, all while learning to use various tools and technology.

Inquiring minds, minds that ask questions of their world – that is what we encourage among students in the Transylvania County elementary schools. Walk into a classroom and you might see students:

• exploring the “length” of the digestive system as they measure model parts on the floor

• observing the life cycle of the painted butterfly, from larvae to chrysalis then (as it opens) into a butterfly, bringing the life sciences in focus.

• making predictions about where the water droplets on the outside of a glass of ice water come from, bringing more understanding of earth’s water cycle.

• designing an experiment to help them better understand how wind is created by the heating of air.

• using an accelerometer and analyzing a graph of moving objects created on the computer.

The fifth grade students in Transylvania County have the added bonus of being active participants of the Muddy Sneakers program. The program’s stated purpose says it all: “Our vision is to bring elementary public school students into natural areas, in close proximity to where they live, in order to teach them science curriculum using experiential methods, while introducing them to the wonders of the natural world. Merging the energy of young students with the energy of these outdoor places sets the stage for deeply felt experiences that instill a ‘backyard’ awareness to the Standard Course of Study. Our vision is to create in children a life-long love of nature and to do this in a way that enhances academic achievement, inspires the joy of living, and plants understanding of the interconnectedness of all things.”

Students experience the science classroom outside in our own DuPont and Pisgah forests.

Science classrooms in the elementary schools are actively developing the foundation needed for more in-depth classes in middle and high school. Future careers are calling for more students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Transylvania County elementary school science classes are encouraging students to be 21st Century learners by inquiring, experimenting, using technology and making science relevant to their everyday life.

For more information on the Muddy Sneakers program, visit

(Jeanne DeJong is a fifth grade teacher at Brevard Elementary School.)


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