Grade Schools & Science: What Every Parent Needs To Know

When it comes to learning science, many parents wonder how they can help their elementary school age children excel in the subject.

The first thing they should ask is: Are their children's teachers qualified to teach it? After all, how can we expect our students to achieve in science and become science literate if their teachers aren't expected to?

Unfortunately, a new survey commissioned by Bayer Corporation, reveals that in the 21st century when scientific and technological advancements impact our daily lives as never before, elementary schoolteachers still do not believe they are as well prepared to teach science as they are other core subjects like reading, writing and math.

"The Bayer Facts of Science Education X: Are the Nation's Colleges and Universities Adequately Preparing Schoolteachers of Tomorrow to Teach Science?" polled both the country's newest elementary schoolteachers, as well as deans of colleges of education who are responsible for training them. It found that one-third (38 percent) of America's kindergarten through fifth grade teachers lack full confidence in their qualifications to teach science (85 percent of teachers feel "very qualified" to teach English, 87 percent math and 66 percent social studies, but only 61 percent feel very qualified to teach science). The deans, too, are least likely to call their graduating elementary teacher candidates "very" qualified to teach science (60%), as compared to English (90%), math (78%) and social studies (69%).

What Can Parents Do?

For parents who want to make sure their children are properly prepared for the science and technology-driven world ahead, America's Ph.D. scientists offer the following advice:

? Know that interest in science begins early. The majority of scientists say their interest in science was first sparked before age 11.

? Be aware that girls like science as much as boys. Mounting evidence indicates that girls and boys start off equally interested in science. Maintaining that interest is the key.

? Understand your role. Scientists say when it came to igniting their early interest in science, their parents were the single biggest influence.

? Expose children to role models. Contact science and technology-based companies in your community that have employee-volunteer programs that allow scientists to spend time with students in local schools.

? Check out school science programs. Ask your children's teachers how they teach science. Is it hands-on and inquiry-based? If you have any questions, organizations like the National Science Resources Center and the National Science Teachers Association, can help.

? Nurture their interests outside of school. Noodling around at home, setting up informal experiments after school and on weekends is not only fun, but effective, report the scientists.

? Utilize science resources. Today, with the Internet, science museums, zoos and other nature parks, and the public library, resources abound.

To help parents begin sharing hands-on science with their children at home, Bayer is offering free its Making Science Make Sense (MSMS) Experiment Guide. To receive one, parents can go online to htpp:// or send a 37-cent stamped, self-addressed business size envelope to: Making Science Make Sense Experiment Guide, Bayer Corporation, 100 Bayer Road, Building #4, Pittsburgh, PA 15205-9741.

The MSMS Experiment Guide and the Bayer Facts of Science Education survey series are two components of Bayer's companywide MSMS program ? an initiative that advances science literacy through hands-on, inquiry-based science learning, employee volunteerism and public education. Currently, 15 Bayer sites around the country operate local MSMS programs, representing a national volunteer corps of more than 1,200 employees.