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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Board on Science Education
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
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A challenge faced by U.S. schools in light of new standards is how to make elementary science education more robust. To help address this challenge, an expert committee will provide evidence-based guidance on effective approaches to preK-5 science and engineering instruction that supports the success of all students. The committee will evaluate the state of the evidence on learning experiences prior to school; promising instructional approaches and what is needed for implementation to include teacher professional development, curriculum, and instructional materials; and the policies and practices at all levels that constrain or facilitate efforts to enhance preK-5 science and engineering.

  Project Overview

The committee will conduct a consensus study to provide guidance on effective approaches to science and engineering instruction in prekindergarten through 5th grade that support the success of all students regardless of race, SES, home language, learning ability and needs, or the community in which they live. The committee will address the following questions:

 • What kinds of learning experiences prior to entering school (e.g. formal and informal, including play-based experiences, informal interactions at home and in the community) will help to prepare children with a strong foundation for science and engineering learning in the elementary grades?

• What are promising instructional approaches for enhancing science and engineering (including computational thinking) in early childhood and grades pre-K through 5? What is necessary in order to implement these approaches? How do these need to be adapted to meet the disparate needs of students (e.g. high poverty, English Learners, students with learning differences, students two or more years behind grade level)?

• How can science and engineering be connected to, or integrated with, other subject areas such as mathematics, computer science, and English Language Arts?

• What is the role of curriculum and instructional materials (including formative and summative classroom assessment) in advancing science and engineering in pre-K-grade 5?

• What professional learning opportunities (both preservice and in-service) are needed to best support teachers to implement effective instruction in science and engineering?

• How do policies and practices at the national, state, and local level constrain or facilitate efforts to enhance science and engineering in pre-K through fifth grade? What are examples of the best policies and practices on the state and local level that foster high quality education in science and engineering in pre-K through fifth grade?

How might policies and practices across the pre-K-12 education system need to be changed to enhance science and engineering for all student in early childhood and the elementary grades including students from low SES backgrounds, English learners, students with learning differences, and struggling and striving students?

• What are the gaps in the current research base and what are the key directions for research, both short-term and long-term?

Related Reports

Taking Science to School CoverTaking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 (2007) 

This publication from the Board on Science Education ´╗┐provides a comprehensive picture of what we know about teaching and learning science from kindergarten through eighth grade. By looking at a broad range of questions, this book provides a basic foundation for guiding science teaching and supporting students in their learning. ´╗┐The book also provides a detailed examination of how we know what we know about children's learning of science--about the role of research and evidence. This book will be an essential resource for everyone involved in K-8 science education--teachers, principals, boards of education, teacher education providers and accreditors, education researchers, federal education agencies, and state and federal policy makers. It will also be a useful guide for parents and others interested in how children learn.

Framework Report CoverA Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (2012)

The framework identifies the key scientific ideas and practices all students should learn by the end of high school. Designed to make science education more closely resemble the way scientists work and think, the framework envisions that students will gradually deepen their understanding of scientific ideas over time by engaging in practices that scientists and engineers actually use. The framework is also designed to be useful for curriculum and assessment designers, teacher educators, and others who work in K-12 science education.

How People Learn II CoverHow People Learn II: Learners, Contexts, and Cultures (2018)

This publication from the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences and the Board on Science Education summarizes research on the science and nature of learning. The report identifies new findings related to neurological processes involved in learning, individual and cultural variability related to learning, and educational technologies. In addition to expanding scientific understanding of the mechanisms of learning and how the brain adapts throughout the lifespan, there have been important discoveries about influences on learning, particularly sociocultural factors and the structure of learning environments. Finally, the report offers specific research objectives in two broad areas to serve as a guide for researchers and funding entities to spur investigations in to levels of analyses, methods, and theoretical frameworks across diverse disciplines to contribute to the study of how people learn.

EL-in-STEM coverLEnglish Learners in STEM Subjects: Transforming Classrooms, Schools, and Lives (2018)
Released in October 2018, this publication from the Board on Science Education and the Board on Children, Youth, and Families calls for a shift in how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects are taught to students in grades preK-12 who are learning English. The report recommends strategies for instruction in the classroom, requisite tools educators need, and ways for building capacity in schools and districts so that English learners have opportunities to develop proficiency in both STEM subjects and language.

Science InvestigationsLScience and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center (2019)

This report reviews research on science investigations and engineering design problems for middle and high school students and explores promising models of innovative investigations and experiences both inside and outside the classroom. Through published research, this report provides ideas for teaching and learning, and incorporates the new vision for science education embodied in the Framework and the NGSS. The resulting report will provide guidance for designing science investigations and engineering design problems for middle and high school students that align with this vision.

Stay Tuned for Updates

Committee meetings set to begin early 2020


Staff Information

Amy Stephens, Study Director
Tiffany Taylor, Associate Program Officer
Heidi Schweingruber, Director, BOSE



Carnegie Corporation of New York

   Robin Hood Foundation

Mailing Address


Keck Center
500 Fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001





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