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Using Scientific Models to Support Elementary Science Teaching & Learning about Water

Tina Vo, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Elementary science learning contexts should engage with science as a process, acknowledging the abilities of young students to think and develop knowledge around complex phenomena (NRC, 2007). Moving towards that goal, the NGSS (2013) has identified modeling as an authentic science practice that supports students reasoning around intricate systems, highlighting processes and relationships, eliciting questions, and generating scientific explanations. The purpose of this research is to explore and identify how different populations of stakeholders engage with scientific modeling within elementary learning contexts. Additionally, hydrological phenomena are used as a platform for each of these studies due to the emphasis on water across elementary science and the extensive experiences elementary students have with water. First, 3rd and 5th-grade students’ uses of model-based explanations were investigated, examining their reasoning about scientifically modeling the water cycle. Finding from this study suggest different grades responded to specific types of modeling support. Next, longitudinal work with inservice teachers connected their conceptions about modeling water to their classroom practice. Findings claim that teachers’ conceptually prioritize some facets of modeling over others and changes to classroom practice were in response to students’ challenges. Finally, preservice teachers’ water lesson plans were examined, investigating their use of technology to model water. The culmination of these studies highlights the need for additional support around elementary students’ modeling, particularly focused on epistemological ideas. Additionally, this work highlights challenges and strengths of elementary teachers and preservice teachers’ attempting to support students’ scientific modeling. Findings from these studies inform the development of elementary science learning environments which incorporate scientific modeling.^

Subject Area

Elementary education|Teacher education|Science education

Recommended Citation

Vo, Tina, "Using Scientific Models to Support Elementary Science Teaching & Learning about Water" (2018). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI10793170.