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Smithsonian and Carolina Biological Launch New Hands-On Science Curriculum for Kindergarten

Julie Gates
for Carolina Biological Supply Company
Gold Sponsor at NSTA 2021
562-429-5972 or jgatespr@yahoo.com

Smithsonian Science for the Classroom™ modules now enable teachers to engage kindergartners in phenomenon- and problem-driven science learning that encourages their natural curiosity

BURLINGTON, NC, April 12, 2021—During the NSTA 2021 Virtual Conference for K-12 science educators, Carolina Biological and the Smithsonian Science Education Center launched a new grade level of kindergarten curriculum for Smithsonian Science for the Classroom™. Published by Carolina, the leading school science supplier and NSTA gold sponsor, Smithsonian Science for the Classroom™ is now a complete K-5 program designed to engage students in the three dimensions of learning described in the Next Generation Science Standards* (NGSS). Four new modules for kindergarten will engage young learners in the classroom or virtually and encourage them to figure out the world around them. As with every grade level in the series, kindergarten has one module each for life science, Earth and space science, physical science, and engineering design. Setting the standard in 3D learning and 3D assessment, the curriculum provides cohesive storylines, superior teacher support, and research-supported instructional design that is backed by proven results with point-of-use support. Smithsonian Science for the Classroom modules for K are available now and include print and digital components, as well as hands-on materials.

The new modules are Smithsonian Science for the Classroom: What Do Plants and Animals Need to Live?; How Can We Be Ready for the Weather?; How Can We Change an Object’s Motion?; and How Can We Stay Cool in the Sun?. The Smithsonian Science for the Classroom series is a high-quality core science and engineering curriculum program specifically developed to meet the NGSS. This curriculum is designed to engage, inspire, and connect grades K to 5 students firsthand to the world around them. Smithsonian Science for the Classroom helps teachers to integrate science, technology, math and engineering through engaging and hands-on lessons.

"Our Smithsonian Science for the Classroom series is now complete for the entire elementary level and was built on the premise that science enhances early elementary students’ curiosity and communication skills," said Dr. Carol O’Donnell, Executive Director at the Smithsonian Science Education Center. "Our program leverages real-world phenomena and problems to drive student thinking and learning. The new kindergarten modules are designed for the NGSS and engage and inspire students through direct observations of the natural world and hands-on investigations, which have been advocated as successful ways to engage early elementary students in science for years."

During the NSTA 2021 virtual event starting today and continuing all week, educators are invited to visit gold sponsor Carolina’s virtual booth and workshops dedicated to elementary science education topics. Carolina is hosting a timely session led by Dr. Carol O’Donnell, whose keynote address discusses diversity and equity in the STEM classroom and is titled, "Integrating Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion (DEAI) in the STEM Classroom." Her keynote is this Friday, April 16 at 11 a.m. E.T. All sessions will be recorded and accessible online for registered attendees for 90 days as well.

Smithsonian Science for the Classroom bundles NGSS Performance Expectations around relatable phenomena and real-world problems. Blending content, practices, and crosscutting concepts into a coherent storyline that addresses the phenomena and problems, the hands-on science and engineering modules were designed to engage and challenge students, while preparing them to meet grade-level Performance Expectations. The modules integrate science and engineering seamlessly, as intended by NGSS. Guidance is provided through call-out boxes on where, when and how students are applying the three dimensions of NGSS—disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts. This is especially useful for teachers who are relatively new to NGSS and also ensures that students are engaged in 3D learning.

"At any age level, it is important to consider phenomena and problems that students can relate to or wonder about," said Melissa Rogers, Senior Science Curriculum Developer at the Smithsonian Science Education Center. "In the kindergarten engineering design module, students hear about an outdoor playground surface that is too hot to sit on. This is a phenomenon they may have experienced and therefore they may have some ideas about the cause. If they have not had similar experiences, this idea is still strange enough that it can prompt them to wonder about what is happening. Either way, student ideas and questions can lead them to investigate what made the playground hot. In this particular module, that understanding also helps them figure out a way to solve the hot playground problem."

An assessment system designed specifically for the kindergarten level includes a comprehensive Assessment Map that illustrates how students progress in building skills and knowledge throughout the module. Formative and checkpoint assessment opportunities build to the module summative assessment, a Science or Design Challenge.

"Carolina Biological is excited to offer this science curriculum designed for NGSS for kindergarten teachers to help them meet the extra challenge of fitting the highest quality science instruction into their school day," said Bridget Hughes-Binstock, Director of Curriculum Products and Development at Carolina Biological. "With integrated support for building literacy skills, the new modules offer the same research and resources only available from the Smithsonian Science Education Center with adaptations for kindergarten. Carolina also provides generous @HOME support for teachers with a variety of digital resources and narrated introduction videos for students to enable teachers to start teaching immediately while at home or in the classroom."

Each kindergarten module has 10 lessons. The lessons are designed toward 30 minutes per class period, but it is flexible since some teachers are able to take more time for science than others.

Smithsonian Only Connections

Developers at the Smithsonian Science Education Center leveraged their incredible curiosity about the amazing things the researchers and curators are investigating at the Smithsonian, and wove that into the curriculum. Students who use Smithsonian Science for the Classroom aren't just getting an incredibly cohesive, engaging, NGSS-aligned curriculum, they are getting a chance to "visit" the Smithsonian and peek behind the scenes with interesting content connections exclusively from Smithsonian.

For example, the K engineering Big Book, Keeping Cool at the Zoo, features a story about an engineering project at a zoo: the seal and sea lion exhibit needs more shade to protect the animals and guests. This is an actual example from the Smithsonian National Zoo. They are redesigning the exhibit and shared various engineering documents and photographs with Smithsonian Science for the Classroom developers during module development. Also, the K physical science Big Book, Tennis Tests, includes photographs of tennis equipment from the Smithsonian Institution collections to show how tennis technology has changed over time. One image used is Althea Gibson's tennis racket. She was one of the first African-American tennis players.

Age-Appropriate Hands-On Materials

Carolina Biological worked with Smithsonian Science for the Classroom developers in choosing materials for the hands-on investigations that were familiar to teachers and students and streamlined the number of materials. These choices reduce teachers’ prep time and leave more instructional time. They also considered things that little hands are able to manipulate. In the K engineering module, students use simple building materials such as wood craft sticks, paper plates, fabric and paper clips to design, build, and test two different types of sun shades. One is for the playground problem and, in the final design challenge, they build a different portable sun shade.

Supporting Teachers

Field testing included virtual instruction, home-based in-person instruction, and feedback from kindergarten teachers. Features that teachers named as standout during field testing are: Sentence frames especially helpful for ESOL population; photos of steps in the teacher preparation section; and engineering lessons that are built on concepts taught in previous lessons.


Smithsonian Science for the Classroom modules for kindergarten are available now and include print and digital components, as well as hands-on materials. A total of 24 modules of Smithsonian Science for the Classroom are currently available, with four modules per grade, K to 5. Each of the new kindergarten modules includes a print-format Teacher Guide, Smithsonian Science Stories Big Book, four Smithsonian Science Stories Literacy Readers, Student eBook Access and Spanish Student Resources, Hands-On Materials Kit for up to 24 students, and digital access to the Teacher Guide and student literacy materials. Prices start at $799.95 for one grade-level module through Carolina. For information, visit Carolina’s website, call (800) 334-5551, or e-mail curriculum@carolina.com.

Carolina Biological Supply Company

From its beginnings in 1927, Carolina has grown to become the leading supplier of biological and other science teaching materials in the world. Headquartered in Burlington, NC, Carolina serves customers worldwide, including teachers, students, and professionals in science and health-related fields. The company is still privately owned by descendants of the founder, geology and biology professor Dr. Thomas E. Powell Jr.

*Next Generation Science Standards® is a registered trademark of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of, and do not endorse, these products.