Building Science Confidence with Bring Science Alive!

Meet Jennifer DeGraaff

“I can say that the level of discourse has improved a lot, especially as the students progress through the grade levels. They have the language of the science and engineering practices that my kids didn’t use to have.”

Jennifer DeGraaff

  • Grades: 3-5
  • Subject: Science
  • District: Mountain View Whisman School District, California
  • TCI Program: Bring Science Alive! Exploring Science Practices
  • Teaching with TCI Since: 2020

In 2020, Mountain View Whisman School District began the search for a new elementary science curriculum. Jennifer DeGraaff, a STEAM teacher at Gabriel Mistral Elementary School, was part of the selection committee.

“There were a lot of great programs out there. We definitely had different opinions,” Jennifer reflected.

After reviewing several options, the district decided to go with TCI’s Bring Science Alive! Exploring Science Practices. The program’s easy-to-use digital platform and flexibility won over the selection committee.

“One thing we liked about TCI was the website. The interface for the teachers and students was very well organized,” Jennifer explained. “I really liked how simple it was to pick and choose what fit my schedule.”

As Jennifer continued using Bring Science Alive! over the next few years, she found that the program provided appropriate science support, which helped teachers feel confident covering science concepts and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). She also appreciated how the program challenged students with rigorous investigations and how easy it was to plan lessons around her schedule.

Lean on TCI’s Teacher Support

Bring Science Alive! is designed to ensure teachers can confidently teach science concepts and cover the standards. From cohesive storyline-driven units to teacher-friendly investigations, the program gives teachers a boost of confidence as they teach.

“A balance of different components like hands-on investigations and instruction just brings it all together,” Jennifer began. “Our old program was really disjointed, and I was always concerned that we were leaving out things. With TCI, I feel I can cover what needs to be covered based on the standards.”

Jennifer also uses built-in teacher support features to ensure key concepts were taught. These features provide questions and answers about the main topics of the lesson.

“I really like the Wrap-Up: My Science Concepts,” Jennifer shared. “I refer to them regularly just to make sure that I am covering all the concepts my students should have learned by the end of the lesson.”

Features like the Wrap-Up: My Science Concepts section are embedded into each TCI investigation for ease of use. Each investigation also includes a Science Background in the planning materials to provide context and support teachers every step of the way.

Challenge Students with Rigorous Investigations

Each lesson in Bring Science Alive! includes a hands-on investigation designed to be challenging, but achievable. The hands-on investigations include building lunchbox alarms through the engineering design process, acting as chemists to identify a mystery substance, and uncovering fossils to draw conclusions about the past.

Although Jennifer was concerned the investigations were too challenging at first, she quickly saw that her students were up for the challenge and could learn key science concepts.

“I’ve been impressed with how students have been able to rise to the challenge of a difficult investigation, and they’ve been able to walk away with a feeling of accomplishment and a solid grasp of complex content,” Jennifer shared.

Throughout the program, the science concepts build on each other. Now that she has used the program for a few years, Jennifer noticed a difference in how her students talk about science.

“I can say that the level of discourse has improved a lot, especially as students progress through the grade levels,” Jennifer reflected. “My kids have the language of the science and engineering practices they didn’t used to have.”

Plan Investigations Around Your Schedule

Jennifer sees her students for 45 to 60 minutes twice a week. With her schedule, she can plan lessons with Bring Science Alive! The program offers many options for simple activities or deeper dives into the lesson.

“It’s a very flexible program. It also offers a lot of extensions. For kids who come in knowing the concepts, there’s a lot of great opportunities for them to further their knowledge and understanding,” Jennifer explained. “The text is extensive, and the Super Simple Science is really fun.”

Science Journal

Bring Science Alive! is available in print and online, allowing for greater flexibility. Teachers can switch between print and digital materials or stick with the format that works best for them. Jennifer’s students used online materials during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Now, they primarily use Bring Science Alive!’s print Science Journals.

“I mostly use the workbook, but sometimes we also use the online components,” Jennifer shared. “For example, when there’s a fun PhET simulation, the students use them online.”

From extensive science background support for teachers to multiple options for engaging students in science, Bring Science Alive! provides a flexible program that challenges students. We love hearing stories from teachers like Jennifer who bring science alive for elementary students.

Jennifer’s Favorite TCI Activities

How Is Energy Stored and Used?

Students act like an engineer to design and build a lunchbox alarm.

“This whole investigation is so great because students are going through the entire engineering process. The students get so invested in trying to figure out a way to meet the criteria. I love watching that happen.”

How Can Substances Be Identified?

Students observe unique properties of five different powders. They use these properties to identify an unknown mystery powder.

“They have to take what they’ve learned to try to identify the mystery substance. It’s a fabulous way for students to really understand the data. It’s such a cool idea and very, very sophisticated.”

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