The Truth About Science Home  
General Information  Preview Curriculum  Purchase Curriculum  Teacher Resources  Student Resources  Contact Us
Summary of Interviews
Back To Teacher Resources
In June 2000, we interviewed Seattle School District teachers who had been trained to use The Truth About Science curriculum. We wanted to find out what worked for them and what didn't work so we could improve the effectiveness of lesson materials and training workshops.
Comments on Skill-building Lessons

Comments on Long Term Research Project (LTRP) Lessons

Other Comments on the Lessons

Were the materials kits sufficient? Did you have to purchase anything else?

Did you use or develop anything to assess student learning?

What kind of support is most helpful when implementing this curriculum?

After using this curriculum, are you more comfortable adapting recipe-style lessons into inquiry-based labs?

How much do you think your students understood about the scientific method? How much do you think they will remember?

Comments from Teachers Who Did Not to Use the Curriculum
Comments on Skill-building Lessons

Ooze, Days 1-3
"Perfect ... gives whole idea of element of fun ... make a mess and learn ... good cooperative activity."

Good. Very structured - nailed down what they were gonna test. You have to be careful not to loose the class in the mess. The experiments were not viable - too fun.

Students came up with good questions and the activity got them to think, but it was too messy; too much clean-up for the teacher.

I had difficulty getting them to focus on qualitative and quantitative observations.

This really goes through the process of science very well. This lesson is great. The students understood the difference between qualitative and quantitative observations.

Good lesson. I wouldn't change anything.

"Tremendous, really great." We did all three days and used the ooze outside. The students really understood quantitative versus qualitative.

Ecosystem Boxes, Days 4-5
Students did enjoy this activity. They could actually come up with questions at such an early stage. They were very curious as to what's in the boxes. Could make it a surprise when you reach in.

Worked well. I had the students make the boxes.

Parents and students worked together to make the boxes. The students understood what a comparison research question is. Classes that brought more things for their boxes asked better questions and got into the activity more than the other classes.

Worked. Took longer than I thought to come up with the questions.

Students brought items in to put in the plastic bins used during the ooze activities. The students understood how to ask a testable research question and how to state a null hypothesis.

Students had some difficulty asking good comparison research questions.

I mixed this with the field methods lesson and took three days. The students had to state what methods they would use to answer their question. I used different colors of papers for each team and copied them so all the students had all the example questions in their notebooks.

I added lots of picture cards from language lesson materials.

Paper Towels, Days 11-12
Love it ... problems with how they stacked the weights ... hard to control the classroom ... fell apart a little ... needed more discussion ... still successful but hard to control ... not sure how much the students understood the concepts because there was so much going on.

Good lesson. The students enjoyed it and got a lot out of it.

Good. No problems.

We used 2-liter pop bottles and that worked but we had to modify several things. The students understood the concept of repeatability. We did need more weights though. We did the second day and that went really well. We built on the ooze experiments in our discussions.

We did both days and took it as far as it could go. Good.

I used quart yogurt containers and had the students hold the towel (no clips). Quieter. This was one of the best lessons for teaching the importance of methods. Need way more washers.

Wigglin Worms, Days 13-14
"way cool" expected it to be difficult to find different environments but it wasn't ... students were intense and methodical ... "workable" ... very measurable experiment good model, simple materials but complex thinking ... have to be careful not to drown the worms.

Students had fun. Dampness of soil makes a big difference. The teacher needs to make sure that the moisture level is the same in all the soil being used and that the students add the proper amount of water, depending on their treatment type.

Worked well.

Didn't do it. They had enough without it.

Wheel of Inquiry, Day 15
Rules need to be better specified ... wanted to play for several days ... phrases were fun to come up with... have teachers make up new questions and post on web site.

Students really liked this.

They wanted to play this over and over. I had to make up more questions. I put them on laminated cards so they could choose the questions. Need a web-based library of questions.

LOVED that. They wanted to play it again so we did it with math facts too. You need to keep the questions organized so you can check off the ones you've already asked or it gets really hard to find a new question at the end of the game.

Aqueous Averages, Day 22
Very straightforward. No problems. Students already know averages ... fun.

We did a survey of candy preferences instead.


The drawing got old so you have to increase the snappiness. Do it over two days? The students know about averages already but this goes much deeper.

Faux Fish, Day 25
hard but students did remember it ... cutting fish takes time but kinda fun.

The cutting fish is tedious and some of the fish were lost, otherwise a good lesson.

Good. It does illustrate the point and the students got it. It is one of those lessons with lots of students doing lots of different things and it's hard to make sure all the students get it.

  Back To Top
Comments on Long Term Research Project (LTRP) Lessons

Research Questions and Hypothesis
We spent a lot of time on this. I xeroxed everything so each student had a copy of all group materials in their notebook. Developing the hypotheses was easier than I expected probably because of the Wheel Game.

They came up with questions that really worked.

Library Research
Difficult lesson. Students wondered "what are we doing here?" Part of the problem is with available library resources and part is that the lesson isn't directed well enough. I was unsure of what to do to guide the students. Maybe a worksheet to give some direction. More sources. The Internet was easier because it was more familiar but there isn't a computer for every student and that's hard.

Difficult to find related information. We didn't use the Internet.

Didn't do it. We had the students do it all at home on the Internet. Each group had more than one student with Internet access. They got really into it and generated lots of information. I helped focus them on what is important and encouraged them to make the introductions interesting and brief. Each group was focused on one animal species and that really helped with availability of information and motivation. (Ashley comment: The presentations from this class had some of the best background information I have seen).

All the writing was hard. We don't do a lot of writing.

This was tough to emphasize. We have a poor library. I didn't do the second library day but I wish I had. Next year, I will get a parent to get supplemental books from the public library and I'll leave them there for the whole project.

Field Methods
We did some but not all of the techniques. Next year I will have parents teach some of the techniques.

We talked about them more than trying them on a set of field trips. On one of the field trips we ran into a scientist with a flow meter. The students really got excited. More of a connection with real scientists would be neat.

Methods and Materials
Each group wrote out their methods on a big sheet of paper and everyone went through all the methods and made comments. We made adjustments after the first day in the field.

Intense. We went over the methods with a graduate student who helped with the class.

Field Trip
Field trip needs two days if possible. Then you can leave stuff overnight and there is time to play. Students burned out a little when they tried to get all the data in one day and some students didn't get enough data.

Found it difficult to come up with questions in a well-kept park.

Bug traps worked well in the school yard.

Students enjoyed going to a site close to the school that they could go to several times.

Students recorded weather, temperature, tide, and wind direction each day. This helped them to make sense of any odd data later. For example, the one sunny day was different.

We went to a sparse park without a stream and all the students found good projects.

Integrated it into the math curriculum

I hate MS Works. How about Excel?

Don't take these lessons out ... gives research and validity and depth ... worst thing that can happen is that a few students don't fully understand ... a little confusing and hard for absent students.

Difficult to teach because I'm an elementary generalist not trained in math or science. I felt like I needed more preparation.

The practice was important. Kathryn helped with the first class and used words that helped. I copied that with the second class and it went better. Some of the students really got it. The parents were impressed and the parents felt that the students got it. Leave it in! It takes a long time and it requires teacher prep (they can't just fly in and do it without thinking) but it's worth it. So little of the curriculum is rote it's OK to present one formula - it shows the students that people aren't just deciding subjectively. We did other experiments later and I overheard students saying "we can't reject our null hypothesis, we need more plants."

Next year, I will coordinate with the math teacher and the students will bring their data to math class.

Writing Paragraphs
Really need to stress differences between Results Paragraph and Discussion Paragraph.

It was hard for the students to tell the difference between the results and the discussion.

I let it all get lumped at the end and I will try to avoid that next time.

Peer Review
Didn't edit each other's but had students give one positive about each poster with stickies.

  Back To Top
Other Comments on the Lessons

Went through last materials as review. Did use demo worm presentation materials. Hard to keep track of overheads ... better to use Sharpies ... rehearsals with more questions.

Have the students use Powerpoint.

I ran out of time to do all that I wanted to do. I'll start earlier next year.

The curriculum is best when used as one coherent unit. However, the culture and pace of different classes makes it difficult to keep them all on the same page.

Doing the curriculum in the fall gives students a notion of how to do research.

It's great to start the year with this curriculum.

I did a slide show of the science year. Could give a slide show at Celebration Night.

It wasn't the same students who jumped in every time. The power of this curriculum is that it is rich and offers a lot of areas for students to take a leadership role. One special needs student became very involved in shell collecting and in data entry. He hadn't actively participated in other projects.

We may enter these in the science fair next year and/or put project summaries on the school website. "I want to build my whole science curriculum around it."

Students had fewer discipline problems when they were working on a project that they had created themselves, even the students who usually have more problems.

Kathryn and Ashley: Overall, we noticed that the teachers at schools with more flexible schedules seemed to have an easier time. Classes with students who are used to working independently and in small groups made the LTRP easier to manage.

  Back To Top
Were the materials kits sufficient? Did you have to purchase anything else?

Purchased some small equipment. Some stuff for Ooze, trowels, magnifying glasses, tape measures (from hardware store - metal - didn't rust yet), clipboards.

PVC sticks broke immediately because students used them as swords.

We used 500ml beakers during the ooze days.

I purchased things I didn't need. I did need extra weights and some thermometers. Parents loaned some equipment.

I had most stuff on hand.

I needed more weights. I made more quadrats, bought trowels, and didn't need the magnifying glasses. We used tagboard in ziplock baggies for recording data in bad weather.

  Back To Top
Did you use or develop anything to assess student learning?

Students get feedback throughout the curriculum. Students find success because they "own the project" and that needs to be left alone. Counter-productive to add formal evaluations - slows down the process. Students did write self-evaluations at the end of the program.

I had students write an essay test giving real-life examples of qualitative and quantitative observations. I also gave a test for closure after the ecosystem boxes.

I gave the students quizzes from the questions in the curriculum.

I used just the reports and the presentations. I didn't try to assess things as it was going on.

I gave the students a 3-page self-assessment and that was very helpful both for me and for them. One of the major issues that came out was about the group dynamics.

  Back To Top
What kind of support is most helpful when implementing this curriculum?

The background materials were very helpful. I read everything several times.

Special statistics meeting. Being able to call with questions - mostly simple questions. Could read through the materials and nearly always get it. Good things to get help with would be the research questions, research sites - where to go for the field component, and suggestions for fun extras.

Having a resource teacher/mentor/contact was helpful and probably more important for self-contained classrooms than science classrooms with trained science teachers.

Curriculum is very self-explanatory.

Helpful to have extra adult bodies when the students are working in small groups.

When the groups were developing their questions, it really helped to have an extra knowledgeable person to with groups in private conferences so it wasn't just the teacher saying "no this won't work".

  Back To Top
After using this curriculum, are you more comfortable adapting recipe-style lessons into inquiry-based labs?

Yes. "Changes the way you think about challenges. You can modify lessons in 100s of ways."

Yes, I feel comfortable adapting labs.

Yes, I linked it with other labs later.

I think so.

  Back To Top
How much do you think your students understood about the scientific method? How much do you think they will remember?

Students understood 85% (not p-value and statistics), Remember 60%.

Students really understood the process of the scientific method, particularly formulating research questions and hypotheses.

Parts. I hope they're exposed to it further. The proof will be in their 8th grade projects.

They understood a lot and brought up ideas months later in another project.

Lots. Especially when we did another experiment afterward. I didn't have to explain anything when we set it up. One parent said 'They did more real science in your class than in any other class." I think they'll really remember about 65%

  Back To Top
Comments from Teachers Who Did Not to Use the Curriculum

Time was a big issue. I have my science students for 1 quarter. We just couldn't get through it. I did use parts of it and hope to get through more of it next year.

I felt constrained by the Life Science focus of the curriculum when I was supposed to teach Physical Science. We did parts of it, such as Ooze, Paper Towels, Ecosystem Boxes and the Wheel of Inquiry game. The students made physical science theme boxes instead of ecology boxes.

I had a mixed 5-6 class and had to use the NSF 5th grade kits first. One was good the other (Changes of State) was boring. I ran out of time to implement the curriculum. I hope to do it next year.

I saved the curriculum to the end of the year and then my class got caught up in various projects and we just never got to it. I would like to try it next year.

I used a few of the lessons. The Faux Fish lesson gave the students a good idea of what a population is and why a sample of 10 is better than 3. I chose other curriculum materials where everything was scripted, all materials were provided, and the homework assignments were provided. Even then, when the students were cleaning up they threw chemicals on each other.

The stumbling blocks were getting the equipment ready, sending out parent letters, and orchestrating 5 periods. Also, I have many special needs students. It would be helpful to read the journal of a teacher who has used it.

I started in January but the class kept being interrupted. I will try again next year - starting in the Fall.

Home  |  General Information  |  Preview Curriculum  |  Purchase Curriculum
Teacher Resources  |  Student Resources  |  Contact Us
Copyright 1999