CBU Researchers Bring Educational Science Fun to K-6 Classrooms

Receive NSERC Award in the Amount of $45,000

Cape Breton University (CBU) faculty researchers have been awarded $45,000 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) for their innovative three-year project that will enhance science curriculum in K-6 classrooms in Cape Breton. Dr. Katherine Jones, Associate Professor of Biology, Dr. Matthias Bierenstiel, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Dr. Coleen Moore-Hayes, Assistant Professor of Education will develop traveling biology and chemistry kits, with the goal of instilling in students an interest in science at an early age. 

Working with K-6 teachers, the CBU researchers will develop a number of indoor and outdoor activities that can be used in elementary classrooms to creatively engage students in activities that will complement learning objectives as set by the Atlantic Canada Curriculum Guides.

 “It is great that NSERC is supporting science promotion and outreach to elementary aged children and teachers. Through this project, we as university researchers can inspire young minds by providing direct insights to exciting research rather from a textbook alone. While the project is intended for K-6 teachers in Cape Breton there is potential for these kits to be used in others places in Canada,” says Dr. Bierenstiel.

Elementary teachers will have access to two kinds of educational kits – Exploration Sea Chests and Molecule Making Machines. Each kit will be curriculum-relevant, grade-appropriate and adaptable for multiple learning styles. Educators will also be supported through a website and they will have access to university expertise. All of the researchers involved in the project have extensive science promotion and educational outreach experience.

The Sea Chests, or wooden trunks, will contain children’s books, an accompanying teaching guide, with word finds and crosswords and active games, all biology related. There will be two different Sea Chests available – one for schools that are near an aquatic habitat and one for schools that are inland. The Molecule Making Machines kit helps teachers inspire young children to tap into their imagination and show them chemistry’s relevance to daily activities. The activities developed will be playful and safe, with direct linkages to K-6 curriculum, helping to create a solid chemistry foundation in students early on. The central theme of the chemistry kits is molecular structure.

To ensure the kits are used to their full potential, a two-day conference will be held for K-6 school teachers to educate them on ways they can effectively incorporate the activities into curriculum. The three-year project has potential for extension with ongoing improvements being made to the kits, annual workshops for teachers and online content available for K-6 teachers in Canada. Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education students will be supervised by Drs. Jones, Dr. Bierenstiel and Dr. Moore-Hayes to help in the development of the activities and contents of the science kits.

It is estimated that 90 per cent of elementary teachers have their bachelor’s degree in a discipline other than science. This project will assist teachers in developing interesting learning activities for students. The kits are intended for K-6 teachers in the public school system as well as First Nation schools.