As a means of keeping science in the curriculum, teachers are showing students about exploring the scientific method in a backpack.
At Westwood Elementary School in Indiana, fifth graders take home a backpack with a rubber band and a toy car to learn about Newton's Second Law of Motion and build a sling shot. A roll of masking tape and instructions for tasks to do with thumbs taped shows the function of opposable thumbs. Kinetic energy is illustrated with a paper frog which is folded to jump.
The science backpacks have been going home with fifth graders for seven years, as their main science curriculum. Worksheets and questionnaires that students turn in document what they have learned about each project.
Teachers at Westwood do not have classroom time for comprehensive science classes, as the district focuses on reading writing, math, and social studies. Goals from the Indiana Department of Education include learning the scientific method and basic science concepts. Teachers do not want students to miss out, and believe this science promotes critical thinking that students cannot afford to miss.
Students take the backpacks home five times each grading period. They work on the experiment for five days and and then turn in the worksheets about what they have learned. They also have access to a STEM lab for an hour and a half each week. Many of the lessons taught in the STEM lab are based on engineering principles.