by Joyce R. Blueford, Ph.D.


The Integrating Science, Math, and Technology (I. Science MaTe) Program is an innovative curriculum designed to teach academically challenging science to elementary (K-6) students. Its unique design allows teachers to learn with their students. Ten years of piloting the program at several sites in California and North Carolina concludes that children and teachers learn best when a structured curriculum (teacher initiated inquiry) is the main instructional philosophy. Other factors that increase overall learning is availability of hands-on materials, parent and administrative support, and an implementation plan of action.


The initial idea of the Integrating Science, Math, and Technology Program began in 1981. The Minority Participation in the Earth Science (MPES) Program of the U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California, began collecting data on reasons why the ethnic backgrounds of geologists were not diverse; mainly consisting of American males with an northern European ancestry. The data seemed to indicate that women of all backgrounds and men of mainly African, Hispanic, American Indian and Asian heritage did not have the basic background to even consider geology as a career (Wallace, 1986). Male geologists also tended to come from parents from a professional background and could attribute their fascination with geology to family outings where natural sciences were the main focus (i.e. hiking in Yosemite or Grand Canyon).

Since we were interested in getting students in low income areas exposed to geological principles, we realized that we needed to develop a program that reached elementary children. We surveyed students on their attitude toward science in general. The research conclude that children's attitudes toward science are molded early in their educational career. Our data was collected during 1,000+ visits to San Francisco Bay Area schools in approximately 20 school districts by conducting presentations to students with the teachers available. The grades ranged from kindergarten to sixth grade and included low and high income student populations.

The students were surveyed by asking them to list their favorite subjects. As data accumulated (from approximately 10,000 students), the more it was obvious their favorite subjects were earth science based. We asked children to rank different science subjects. The most liked were volcanoes, earthquakes, minerals, rocks, animals, and landslides. The least liked were chemistry and physics.

During the visits, several conclusions could be made. (1) Economic status of the school site seemed to be a critical factor in determining the overall level of science background. (2) Teachers on a whole did not have an adequate background to perform science experiments and discussion. (3) Materials were not available for teachers, especially in the low income schools. (4) Administrators were unaware of the need for a well balanced science curriculum. (5) Curriculum guides in science issued by the school district were inadequate.

In an effort to help educators find a solution, the MPES Program surveyed the majority of educational science materials available for elementary grades. The materials usually lacked a good foundation in the earth sciences. In many instances, the information was incorrect or out of date. We found it very disturbing that the topics children liked most were not explored in greater detail.

With this data, the MPES Program decided to design a school science program to guide teachers in developing a more rigorous hands-on program. The scope of the project began to evolve into more than just earth sciences, so a new organization called the Math/Science Nucleus (MSN) was created in 1982. Over 50 scientists and educators were the basis of the new tax-exempt organization. A grant from the Gerbode Foundation, San Francisco, provided seed money to hire Angela Montez as the first executive director. Under her leadership, along with the guidance of the Board of Directors, the Math/Science Nucleus and the U.S. Geological Survey (MPES Program) undertook the first pilot site that developed the I. Science MaTe program. A grant from the California License Plate Program provided money to continue developing the units within the curriculum as they were piloted in the schools.


Data from the original site showed an overall increase in science education as well as an overall increase in other subjects. Blacow Elementary School, Fremont, California was chosen as the first test site for several reasons. It had a diverse population and a bilingual program, as well as a very willing principal, Mr. John Melendez. There were few discipline problems with students, and the teacher population was willing to help develop a program. In 1983, Blacow Elementary School had approximately 625 students of low to moderate income.

The initial grant allowed the MSN and the USGS to obtain supplies and create several hands-on labs. One classroom was cleaned and fitted by parents and MSN volunteers. Local businesses donated some of the tables and other materials that were needed. A plan was developed by teachers, principals, parents, and scientists to decide what the goal of the year would be. The plan included a detailed progression of scientific concepts that we wanted the students to learn. These concepts would later evolve into the cycles that we use, Applied Sciences, Universe Cycle, Plate Tectonic Cycle, Rock Cycle, Water Cycle, and Life Cycle.

Angela Montez, a former MPES students with a degree in Environmental Science became the executive director of the MSN. Under her leadership and an active Board of Directors, which included Dr. J.R. Blueford (geologist), Ray Wong (biologist), Lyla Fries (community leader), Dr. D. Stronk (education professor), and Ken Parker (National Weather Service) a ten year strategy to develop a science program was formulated. The goal was to create a science program that challenges all students.

During the first year, a scientist was in the lab most of the day helping 4th, 5th and 6th grade teachers revise lesson plans and hands-on activities. The content was controlled by the scientist and the teacher helped with classroom management. This marriage created logical lesson plans that built up week after week. There was also a realization that students needed to be prepared for a lab and that a follow-up after the lab would help students retain their new skills. Existing science materials were assessed and incorporated where possible, however most materials were outdated, incomplete or inappropriate.

During the first year, a supply room connected to the new lab classroom was cleaned and all the weekly hands-on science kits were labeled, catalogued and stored in a easy method for retrieval. A library type system of material checkout (including kits) was also devised. By the end of the third year this room housed over 200 hands on K-6 science and kits and associated materials. Student lab booklets for grades 3-6 were developed and revised during the three year pilot. These guides contained the lab sheets and lab instructions for the students to follow and record their lab results for each lesson. The booklets served as the basis for obtaining the students letter grade. The end of the second year and during the third pilot year materials were also developed for K-2 grades. Eventually a lab manual containing pre labs, during labs (including lab sheets), post labs, vocabulary lists, classroom management techniques, updated science content and references emerged. This was the prototype to the 6 volumes of materials now available: Applied Science, Universe Cycle, Plate Tectonics Cycles, Rock Cycle, Water Cycle, and Life Cycle.

A series of inservices, workshops and evaluation sessions were carried out through the three year pilot program. Grades K-2 and 3-6 were kept separate for most of these sessions. Input from teachers also developed other strategies. Books became a main feature in the program. Books were researched and incorporated into the pre and post labs of many of the K-6 science lessons. A book list for each top area and grade levels is now included in the curriculum guides.

Children's literature books became a main feature in the program. Books were researched and incorporated into the pre- and post labs of many of the science lessons. A book list for each topic area and grade level were developed. Troll Book Publishing Company donated a set of science books, to help us pilot the use of books.

The role of the classroom teacher changed from year to year. Year one the teachers role was to observe, take notes, participate in the workshops and evaluate the program. The second year, the teachers became responsible for helping during the labs (both in lecture and hands-on) and continuing the above duties already described. Finally, the third year, it was the teachers responsibility to conduct the labs themselves with MSN staff to assist and evaluate. However, this occurred on an irregular basis and only with teachers with a good background in science. Feedback from the K-6 teachers not only helped shape the science materials, but an ongoing evaluation process of the content took place through the three year pilot program by contacting mathematicians, biologists, meteorologists, paleontologists, geologists, chemists, and engineers from local industries. Unfortunately, the MSN did not keep track of the people that contributed.

In the lower grades, we were able to recruit parents with science backgrounds (nurses, persons with biology degrees) to also help develop lesson plans in the lower grades. Kindergarten did not use the lab because the tables were too large; the 1st-3rd grades used the lab every other week.

Prior to the start of the program, we asked all students (except kindergarten) their attitudes toward science. The questionnaire was designed to evaluate student's impression of science. The results were dramatic. 1st - 4th graders felt science was fun (50%) although their scientific knowledge was poor. 5th and 6th graders felt that science was boring (80%). More dramatic in these upper grades was that girls overwhelming disliked science (95%). We asked the students to rank science with English, Social Studies, Mathematics, Art, and Physical Education. Science was the last on their list. After only one year of student participation in the newly developed I. Science MaTe Program, the students ranked science as their number 1 subject, even the 5th and 6th graders. Parents were also given a questionnaire on their attitude toward science. Most knew that science was important for their children. However, most felt their own science background was inadequate.

The program was expanded and refined at Blacow Elementary for 2 more years. The overall test scores of the students on the California Achievement Test showed a 20% gain. The only new project that was initiated was the I. Science MaTe Program. There was no science assessment studies completed at this time because the California Assessment Program in Science (CAPS) was not readily available. The goal of the project was to increase all skills not just science. There was also a dramatic increase in the overall educational level of Blacow Elementary compared to the other schools in the district. The prior year, Blacow was 23rd out of 26 schools. Two years into the program, Blacow ranked 3rd out of 26.

In 1985, Othene Thomas, the acting superintendent of Ravenswood City School District allowed us to start a pilot site in East Palo Alto. In the spring of 1985 we decided to work with Brentwood Oaks Elementary school with Mr. English as the principal. We completed the same steps we did at Blacow of meeting with teachers, parents and administrators. The plan was to start in the Fall, 1985. However, before it was implemented, a new superintendent, Dr. Charlie Mae Knight was hired. She agreed to continue the project, but only with Garden Oaks, a 4th-6th grade school with Dr. Ida Carveth as the principal. Dr. Knight agreed to provided a full-time resource teacher if we fitted a lab and provided support. Under a grant from the Peninsula Community Fund and Stulsaft Foundation, we started the program after extensive cleaning and renovation of the lab room. Susan Dutcher was hired as the resource science teacher. She helped refine lab activities. Discipline was a problem in Garden Oaks during the first few months of the program. Susan Dutcher and Dr. Carveth with a team from the USGS (Dr. Joyce Blueford, Leslie Gorden, David James, Lester Lacy, and Renata Tervalon) and from the MSN (Angela Montez) developed a classroom management strategy that allowed students who wanted to learn the opportunity to participate and denied the program to those who disrupted the class. The strategies are still working in 1992. Garden Oaks, changed its name to Ronald McNair in honor of the astronaut that lost his life in the Challenger (space shuttle) disaster.

Susan Dutcher was evaluated by a team of teachers from the county of San Mateo in 1989 and received the Kent Exemplary award for science teaching of the I. Science MaTe program. The program was nominated by National Science Foundation as an example of an ideal school. The I. Science MaTe was also recognized by AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) in their publication of programs for minority students.

The third pilot site was Federal Terrace in Vallejo, California. Students represented were naval employee's children, so the majority of the school was of mixed ethnic background with very young parents living in government housing. Sara Tarr-Weaver of the U.S.Geological Survey set up a lab, with the U.S. Navy's help. Because of limited funds, this pilot site only confirmed that the labs worked, but monitoring of test results was not evaluated. The district paid for the materials because we were not able to secure material funds, although many grants were written.


Our first test site, Blacow Elementary School was discontinued in 1989 because of lack of administrative support from the district. Since we were not an approved program by the state, there was no commitment from the district. Also, the union negotiated 40 more minutes of preparation time, which forced most schools to make the prep time, science lab. The classroom teacher did not participate in the lab and the coordination by the new science resource teacher, who was not involved in the original program, was not maintained. The MSN and USGS decided to remove the pilot materials to other schools that were maintaining the program.

The Vallejo test site did not continue after 1989 because another program from the Lawrence Hall of Science received a large grant from National Science Foundation to pilot the FOSS program in Vallejo. The Vallejo School district administration felt that the I. Science MaTe program was good, but they did not want to pass up a free pilot site.

R. McNair in Ravenswood City School District was converted into a 5-8th grade in 1991. We had worked with the district in 1989 to develop a 7th and 8th grade extension of the I. Science MaTe. Susan Dutcher still uses the program with the same materials. Paulette Johnson, who oversees the restructuring of the districts educational program, continues to work with us and expand the program in the other schools. Belle Haven Elementary and Flood Elementary has worked using the program for 2 years. We presently are implementing the K-3 portion of the I. Science MaTe through a grant from Hewlett-Packard. Money has prevented implementation throughout the entire district. A local consortium of Hewlett-Packard, Syntex, Alza, Sun Microsystems, U. S. Geological Survey, and the Heart Association has over 30 scientists helping implement the program in the K-3 grades.


The pilot program allowed us to access the problems facing teachers and schools in implementing a program. There were many factors that helped us further design the program to the product that it is today. The factors are listed below.

1. Language was not a problem, as we initially predicted. The material was hands-on, and children learned new vocabulary words with the material. Many words were Latin based, so many Spanish speaking children did not have a problem. Cooperative learning classroom management skills helped non-English speaking students team up with bilingual students. Separation during science lab was not a problem. We allowed students to write the answers on the lab sheet in their own language. Also, English is the official language of science and we have been approached by other countries to use our program.

2. Children like the hands-on components the most. Teachers did not like the hands-on components. The majority of teachers preferred a textbook because it was easier. The teachers were the main stumbling block in implementing the program because they felt incompetent to teach science. If one evaluated individual teacher background, it was easy to see why they disliked science. The teachers' experience was inadequate. The educational system (especially higher education) did not require them to be science literate. In order to design a program that was teacher friendly, we had to create pre and post labs that helped teachers learn science through literature, art, or social studies. Included in the program are over 350 literature books that help guide teachers.

3. We recognized that teachers needed years of inservice to develop a good background in science. However, this was not possible. The program is designed to provide a means for teachers to learn with their students. Since most teachers changed the grade level they taught many times in their careers, it was suggested that we create teacher manuals that allowed for the teacher to see the entire breadth of the program. This was the reasoning for the K-6 volumes to be similar to the scope and sequence that we follow. The document, What Works (1987) also helped guide the development of the manuals.

4. It was recognized that administrators were more important to the overall science program. They needed to know the scope and sequence and to evaluate and provide the materials for the teachers. We wrote a booklet, Implementation and Evaluation Procedures (1991) that allowed the principal to recognize their role.

5. It was recognized that curriculum directors needed to understand the scope and sequence, and the importance of this progression. We found that administrators preferred to know what the schools are doing in science because they could plan events such as science and invention fairs around the scope and sequence.


After the initial pilot at Blacow Elementary in 1983-84, an implementation plan of this program at other school sites needed to be investigated. Refinement of the curriculum as well as an implementation plan occurred contemporaneously.

Since American schools are urban, suburban and rural, we investigated how this would occur. We used National NSTA meetings to get teachers' opinions. The USGS and MSN hosted teacher workshops involving many areas in California and other states (1983-1986). We consulted with AISES (American Indian In Science and Engineering Society) to include reservation schools.

The following is a partial list of the areas investigated.

1) Hoppa Reservation, Humboldt County
2) Bakersfield Area
3) Sacramento Area
4) San Diego Area
5) Los Angeles Area
6) Denver Area
7) San Francisco Area
8) Washington D.C. Area
9) Fresno Area
10) New York City Area

These workshops gave us input from over 400 teachers concerning the type of program they would use at their school sites. We also recognized that there were other problems in inner city and rural schools that needed to be addressed if a program was to be successful.

The implementation model that we would eventually use agreed with the data presented in What Works (1987).


From 1985-1987, the board of directors of the MSN appealed to local and national grant giving agencies to fund improvement of the project. The MSN was not able to secure funds so the directors decided to develop a hard money based organization where most of the funds were derived from sales of products. Dr. Joyce Blueford, resigned from the U.S. Geological Survey to develop a financial base for MSN on a volunteer basis. The Board of Directors decided that MSN should publish the I. Science MaTe curriculum books (draft editions) and use the money earned to continue refinancing the program. The marketing of products and the developing of a teacher show room at the Fremont facility, would serve the MSN's goal of getting science into the schools. An inservice program to help educate teachers was also initiated. The I. Science MaTe program was recognized in 1991 as an exemplary program that works by ERIC (Dept. of Education).

James Gonzales, an intern in the MPES Program assisted the development of the program in low income areas. He piloted a 7th and 8th grade curriculum in Ravenswood Middle School in East Palo Alto, that was a lab extension of the K-6th program. He also assisted in developed an entire K-8 I. Science MaTe Program at Flood Elementary School, a science magnet school in the Ravenswood City School District.

As our manual and products became organized, schools and districts began to request our assistance. Over the last 2 years (1990-1992) we have helped thousands of teachers through our science workshops and have worked with approximately 50 schools. We have reached many more through the teachers we have inserviced and who have purchased our products. Some school districts such as Newark Unified, Franklyn-McKinley (San Jose), Sunol, and Lafayette School Districts have been implementing the program over the last 2 years. They have used different funding sources to obtain materials. The only school that is monitoring results in Schilling School in Newark by Katherine Keleher. The results of her study is in Appendix 1. for the school year 1990-1991.

In 1992, we began implementing the program in several more schools including Ravenswood City School District after the school district reorganized into K-4 and 5-8 schools. A relationship with private and public corporation is also developing in connection with Ravenswood and Franklyn-McKinley. This involves the following companies: Hewlett Packard, Syntex, Sun Microsystems, American Heart Association, X-Soft, Lockheed, NASA, and the USGS.

In 1991, Debbie Davidson, a former science consultant with the MSN started a pilot site in North Carolina. With guidance from Mr. Edmiston, principal of Troutman Elementary, (Iredale County School District), we successfully began our first school site in North Carolina. Preliminary data shows that the program has been an overwhelming success. The success at Troutman, have propelled other parent groups to get the I. Science MaTe program in their school.

Lacy Elementary in Wake County has been implementing the program throughout the different grade levels. Lacy PTA group have been instrumental in getting the program working. Union Grove Elementary in Iredell County is using a combination of community donated funds with school funding to created a lab situation. There are currently about 10 schools throughout North Carolina using portions of our program.


After 10 years of developing, revising, and evaluating the I. Science MaTe curriculum it is apparent that a structured curriculum and implementation plan is most effective. Whether the school district i s low, moderate, or upper income doesn't change the content of the curriculum only the implementation plan. children of all socio-economic backgrounds have the ability to learn high level science, if the logic and sequencing of the material is coherent.

Implementation plans to increase science at a school site must have well defined roles of both the principals and teachers. Without checks and balances most science programs in elementary schools will show little increase of test scores.

Blueford, J., Davidson, D., and Gonzales, J. (1991) Implementation and Evaluation Procedures of the I. Science MaTe Program. Math/Science Nucleus 20pp

U.S. Department of Education (1987) What Works, Research about Teaching an Learning 86pp

Wallace, Jane, H., (1986) Minority Participation in the Earth Sciences (MPES) Program - 15 years of Achievement. 81pp




5/90 TO 4/91




2nd - 3rd

+ 3.8

+ 1.8

3rd - 4th

+ 1.0

+ 1.8

4th - 5th

- 2.1

- 0.8

5th - 6th

+ 6.8

+ 3.4




2nd - 3rd

33/66 = 50% (Based on NCE)

3rd - 4th

27/52 = 52% (Based on NCE)

4th - 5th

23/50 = 46% (Based on NCE)

5th - 6th

27/45 = 60% (Based on NCE)

NOTE: A student's scores were omitted from this compilation if either their 1990 or 1991 score was "1" (the minimum possible), as this indicates a mistake in filling out their answer sheet as opposed to a true reflection of their ability.


SITUATION: Mrs. Keleher is the science laboratory teacher at Schilling Elementary School, Newark, California. Once a week, she teaches a hands-on lab to all children; the fifth and sixth graders come to lab twice a week. Mrs. Keleher has been the science teacher at this school for 5 years. The science room is full of wonderful displays and material that Mrs. Keleher has accumulated over the years. The I. Science MaTe materials were incorporated starting in September, 1990. The curriculum she followed in prior years was textbook based.

EVALUATION PROCEDURE: Students were given a post evaluation sheet that asked students to qualitatively evaluate the science program as to materials, their likes and dislikes. They had to write their answers. J.Blueford evaluated the results. Below is a summary of the results.



# students

#1 more

#1 less

#1 same

#2 more

#2 less

#2 same

























































Question 1. Did you learn more science this year than last year?

Question 2 Did you want more or less science to be taught?

EVALUATION: Most children felt they learned more science this year than last year. The general sense of answers from other questions relate that children enjoyed the hands-on components more than the text book from the previous year. Children also wanted more science to be taught, which is also reflected in other answers on the questionnaire. Notice that students in the sixth grade are not overwhelming supportive in wanting more science. Some of the answers on the other questions reflected children who already had an attitude about science.


What do you like about lab: videos

What do you want more of: volcanoes, everything, rocks, body

How would you improve science: have science three times a week, make more labs; not enough time, not enough science, more displays, more supplies, buy more things, more hands-on labs, more microscopes

Do not like about lab: Did not like substitute teacher, writing the work

Do not like about classroom: My favorite thing was touching, and in classroom there is little touching.


What do you like in lab: experiments, going outside, microscopes, looking and touching "stuff"

What do you like in classroom: video or movies, otherwise, most didn't answer this question.

What do you want more of: rocks, earthquakes, science, plants, animals, environment, fossils, "messy experiments, body, solar system

How would you improve science: like it longer, go on trips, science should be the whole week, get a new classroom, give money, more labs, less paper; more experiments and more equipment; get a big room and get more materials; more microscopes

Do not like about lab: waiting my turn, substitute that taught class; not enough materials; not enough time; did not like to write.

Do not like about classroom: too much lecture, too much reading, boring, when you copy from the board.


What do you like about lab: I liked touching and fooling around with the stuff, it helped me learn better.

What do you want more of: life cycle, earthquakes, microscopes, telescopes, nature, diseases, experiments, molecules, space, health, planets, fun experiments; equipment, earth

How would you improve Science: more science everyday, science hour a day, 3 days of labs

" I liked the science lab because I like it when we work with many things in the lab. I hope we

will have science all week now."

Do not like about lab: not enough time, writing on lab sheet, waiting for my turn

Do not like about classroom: boring talks, lectures, taking notes from board, homework

What don't your like: I didn't like mostly everything in the lab, I think that it was all boring. But I learned well from it.

Mrs. Keleher also did a detailed study of all the children's performance in tests. She found a dramatic increase in the 4th and 6th grade children, as much as an overall increase of 50% percent. The fifth grade did not show dramatic results, although a slight increase. In her report, Mrs. Keleher felt that other social factors were involved.

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