A Note From The Teacher

by Jennifer Cummings, M.Ed.

Teaching the 3 R’s- Where are Science and Social Studies?

teacher school kids With the current focus on high-stakes testing taking up much of the teaching time of America’s teachers, many parents are wondering- What happened to science and social studies?

This is certainly a valid question and one that is echoed by many classroom teachers around the nation. Here’s how we got to where we are, and what families can do to address this change in focus with their own children.

Many parents have heard more than they care to about the current focus on high-stakes testing throughout public education. Largely the result of No Child Left Behind legislation, most states now test students for proficiency in both English Language Arts and mathematics every year.

With the results of these tests weighing heavily on individual schools, many districts have been forced to give extra focus to teaching these skill areas. In order to get the time needed to do this in one school day schools have resorted to more drastic measures such as removing recess and shortening the periods dedicated to teaching science and social studies.

While some states, such as Massachusetts, are testing students in science and engineering topics, most states are more heavily focused on the basic reading, writing and math skills that have been deemed necessary. Even in those states currently testing other academic areas, the focus continues to be on basic skills.

While proficiency in basic skills is certainly important, the time given to students in other areas is seriously below what should be taught at all grade levels. This is leading to students having a less than balanced education as they progress through the grades, and in some ways is contributing to students being less prepared overall for college or jobs when they leave high school.

In order to help students, parents and schools must work cooperatively to enhance students’ education. What can be done by parents to help make up for the changes in science and social studies education?

Here are five things that parents can do with their children to help:

1. Expose you child to science topics. Sound intimidating? It’s really not- you don’t even have to be a scientist to do it! Most large communities have natural science museums, children’s museums, nature centers, state parks, or other science-based resources that are very interactive and age-appropriate for school children.
By allowing your child to take part in the activities and offerings of these institutions you will help to foster a natural sense of inquiry and wonder in the scientific world. 

2. Be active in your local community. Children should be aware of the world they live in and that begins with their own community! With your children, attend community events such as firehouse open house days, community performances, town meetings, historical museums, or police sponsored safety days. By introducing these community groups to your child you will not only encourage them to be part of their community but will educate them in the ways communities work together.

3. Follow your child’s interests. Most public schools do not have the staff or resources to allow students to fully investigate areas they have a personal interest in. So, whatever your child is tuned in to, make the time to help nurture their inquisitive mind.

Is your daughter interested in bluebirds? Research ways to attract bluebirds to your home and how to build birdhouses for them; join a local bird watching group to find out where to spot them in your community.

Is your son a fan of cars? Find a local evening program that teaches basic car care and mechanics and have him help keep the family car in tune. By taking the time to nurture your child’s interests they may find a new path to learning that they would not have experienced otherwise.

4. Take an active part in your child’s school. Most schools have school councils, parent associations, and school committees which are all involved in determining the programming that students are exposed to. Be an active part of these groups and make your voice heard about promoting continued education in the sciences and social sciences.

5. Stay informed about political issues impacting education. Local schools and districts no longer have the sole ability to determine what skills to emphasize in the classroom. Often, national politics play a larger role than ever before in determining what students will learn.

By keeping up-to-date on current educational issues and making an informed vote at the local and national level, you can help to shape you child’s educational experience. When possible, involve your child as you learn, helping them to understand the power of making an informed decision about events and issues that impact their lives.

By being aware of the changes in education and being an active parent you can help maintain a well-balanced education for your child. Neither schools nor parents alone can provide for all that a student in the modern educational institution needs.

However, by being informed and working cooperatively with schools, parents can help to ensure that public education continues to provide a well-rounded education for all students.

Thanks to everyone who reads our column regularly. We look forward to sharing new ideas and advice with you each month.

Jennifer Cummings

Ms. Cummings, author, and editor of the Education and School Section, she has a B.A.in psychology and an M.Ed. in special education from Framingham State College in Massachusetts. She was an elementary teacher in Massachusetts serving both regular education and special education students. She has taught grades 1,4, and 5.

"I believe that families' involvement in their child's education is one of the key ingredients to creating a successful school experience for children. Keeping parents informed about school-related issues helps parents and teachers work together for the best possible outcomes for their children. Learning together makes learning fun - for everyone!" - Jennifer Cummings.
https://imgsub.familiesonlinemagazine.com/uploads/2015/02/fam-dinner34.jpghttps://imgsub.familiesonlinemagazine.com/uploads/2015/02/fam-dinner34-150x150.jpgJennifer CummingsSchoolEducation and SchoolA Note From The Teacher by Jennifer Cummings, M.Ed. Teaching the 3 R's- Where are Science and Social Studies?With the current focus on high-stakes testing taking up much of the teaching time of America's teachers, many parents are wondering- What happened to science and social studies? This is certainly a...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids