Mt. Vernon Register-News

August 23, 2013

Center tweaks new science curriculum

By TRAVIS MORSE travis.morse@register-news.com
The Register-News

---- — MT. VERNON – The newly approved Nancy Larson Science Curriculum will be a welcome addition to the educational programs offered at the Primary Center, said third grade teacher Julia Laur.

Laur was part of a group of Primary Center educators who attended a two-hour training seminar Thursday on implementing the new science curriculum. She said she was anxious to start her students on the program, which takes a hands-on approach to science education.

“I am excited because we haven't had science in the last couple years, so I'm anxious to get it back,” Laur said. “We just had to fit it in where we could with the reading. … I think the hands-on part is going to really appeal to the students.”

The seminar, or in-service training session, was led by Gracia Roberson, an educational consultant with Nancy Larson Publishers.

Over the course of the session, Roberson walked teachers through all the various components of the curriculum, as well as the tools and materials provided in the program's starter kit.

“We'll just be talking about all the different aspects of the program,” Roberson said prior to the seminar. “We're just going to talk about how the program is meant to be used in the classroom, that it's a sequential learning progression, sort of an interwoven program that revisits concepts and takes them to a deeper level.”

In July, the District 80 Board of Education approved a $22,000 expenditure to implement the first year of the Nancy Larson Science program. The total cost of the curriculum will be $56,000 over a five-year period.

Primary Center second grade teacher Erika Phelps has taught the curriculum on a limited basis for the past six years. Starting this fall, however, the program will be expanded and taught to all second and third graders at the Primary Center, an estimated 307 students.

“I think we should be teaching it,” said Shelly Brose, a third grade teacher at the Primary Center. “There's a lot of non-fiction that goes along with (it) and I think that will help our students in their reading ability and they'll learn more things that they should be knowing.”

The Nancy Larson Science Curriculum covers a wide range of topics, including life science and the environment, the physical properties of matter, earth and space science, and more. The author of the program, Nancy Larson, has 30 years of experience in the education industry.

As part of the curriculum, students learn complex science vocabulary. They also complete numerous hands-on activities, including dissections, the use of weights and scales, and examining minerals.

One of the more unique activities for second grade students will be to dissect owl palettes, said Dee Ann Schnautz, director of curriculum, instruction, and assessments for District 80.

“There are just some really interesting pieces that I didn't do until I was in college,” Schnautz said. “I think it's going to support our balanced literacy program and good academic vocabulary.”

This school year, second and third graders will complete two, 30-to-45-minute Nancy Larson sessions a week.