What Schools Say

Why the best schools use Science Bits

Dee Cobia
Dee Cobia

Calvary Christian School, California (USA)

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your school?

My name is Dee Cobia and this is my 14th year teaching science. I am the Elementary science specialist at Calvary Christian School in Palisades, California. We’re in the Los Angeles area. Our school is located a few blocks from the beach and Pacific Palisades. It is a Christian school with some values that anchor us in the middle of Los Angeles.

What materials do you use in your classroom?

I use Science Bits to supplement my primary curriculum which is very hands-on. I saw that my students needed something to help them better understand the concepts they were working with in the lab. As far as Christian schools go in America, Calvary is academic. Science Bits is helping us keep that focus and even turn it up a notch.

Tell me more about that and the way you use Science Bits.

Sure, but I think I’m going to have to talk about the pandemic! After the pandemic, I felt there was chaos in my science lab. As I said, my primary curriculum is very hands-on and there is a lab every session.

Post-pandemic, I felt the kids were going through the motions. There was a lot of chaos; getting the equipment, understanding why we were using the equipment, going through the lab, and then, not even really understanding or knowing why we were doing the lab.
So, I felt that we needed something to anchor us more. Our primary curriculum includes a small textbook, but my students needed something meaty and needed to be removed from the lab equipment one day a week.

I use Science Bits with fourth and fifth grade. With fifth grade, I do labs on Monday. The next day they come in, it will be a digital day. They bring their laptop and they work on Science Bits. Science Bits helps anchor them onto the concepts they learned in Science lab.

So, you’re really flipping the classroom then.

Yes, when we do our Science Bits day, I try to do something a little hands-on with them and a mini-lecture. For example, one week we were working with mixtures. They separated mixtures with screens and magnets. We talked about the strategies they used, and then we used Science Bits material on mixtures.
I have the kids take notes on each page of text in Science Bits. After we talk about the main ideas, we go into the activities. With Science Bits, the activities really help them think critically and begin to understand.

So, what’s the overall impact, do you think?

It’s more meaningful. They understand why they’re doing something. We’ve talked a lot about matter having mass and taking up space and they really understand that. The simulations in Science Bits allow them to explore equipment before using it physically, which is really helpful.

The lab simulations are my favorite thing because using real equipment is a lot more glitchy! Like filling a graduated cylinder to exactly the 50 mL mark and then, when weighing something, learning to zero the scale. Those are all things you could get lost in if you were just using the physical equipment!
Kids also understand why we’re using the digital scale or why we’re using the graduated cylinder, which has been really helpful.

I really like the Engage and Explore lessons; they’re an excellent way to introduce an idea. All of my science classes are anchored around a phenomenon and Science Bits provides that for you! Those are hard to come up with as a teacher on your own.
Some textbooks do have phenomena, but Science Bits offers something truly engaging ones. When you introduce a phenomenon in the Engage lesson, it has enough depth to it to carry you all the way through the unit to the Elaborate lesson.

Do you have any funny story about teaching science or a funny answer you got in class?

I’m sure I have many but one I remember on our Science Bits day was that I’d asked students to take notes BEFORE they did the activities. I also added the instruction “Leave room for Teacher notes.”

One of my kids got up and left the room to go find the teacher notes outside–—he took it very literally that you were to get up and walk outside! All the other kids thought it was funny too and I ended up having to change the slide!

That’s hilarious! Can you tell us how you discovered Science Bits?

I stumbled upon it when I was doing research. I’ve taught Middle School here as well. I had gone through the seventh-grade book. I wasn’t pleased, but I managed to find labs for all of the lessons.

But when I opened the eighth-grade textbook, I just thought, this won’t do. You cannot have paragraphs and pages and pages describing motion. It just doesn’t work. So I started looking for something that could represent physics better.

I looked at a couple of curricula and when I saw all of the multimedia you include, I thought, this is what we need. If you’re teaching kids about motion, they need to see things moving. They need to see videos. They need to do sims. There are some things that the textbook just can’t do.

So, what difference does Science Bits make to you as a teacher?

It makes life easier. I used to spend a lot of time looking for phenomena for my units. There are a lot of suggestions online, but very few were a fit. Science Bits does that work for you; they have ready-to-use phenomenon videos in the Engage sections. You’re not hunting through YouTube looking for videos.

It also saves me time finding text that my students can read. I think it’s very important that they are able to read scientific writing—and, more than anything else, it provides reading that’s challenging.

Science Bits concentrates on higher level thinking skills. That’s really helpful; I don’t have to come up with applications for what my students learn. I used to write tests with situations to change up what the kids had learned; Science Bits does that for me.

You said that it challenges more, how do your students respond?

When my students start using Science Bits in September, they complain because it is written at a higher level than the textbooks they usually encounter. By December, however, they really begin to like it.

When I was teaching Middle School, the kids were afraid somebody might take it away and they would go back to a textbook. There was a lot of fussing about that! They were like “Oh no! If we have a different teacher, are they going to use a textbook? We don’t like the textbook; we want Science Bits!”

The kids prefer it; they prefer the level of engagement it provides.

So, there’s a learning curve: they found it difficult at the beginning, but once they understood what was expected of them, they loved it! And what about you, would you ever go back to just a textbook again? Would you recommend Science Bits to other teachers?

No, I would not go back to a textbook again. A textbook is very one-dimensional; it doesn’t have all the videos and simulations. I taught a textbook–heavy curriculum in another school in Los Angeles and found the kids had problems and struggled.

My Head of school pointed out Science Bits cuts reading down to one page. The kids are only responsible for maybe about three or four paragraphs, then they’re going to practice that with activities. In a standard textbook, you get eight pages and a bunch of questions…

So, I would recommend Science Bits because it breaks down text and includes higher level questions. I’d also recommend the Elaborate lessons. It’s important because kids get to use the knowledge they have learned in a new situation. If they don’t practice applying what they learn to new situations, they won’t be able to use that knowledge in the real world.

Science Bits helps students see how things really work and how the parts interact. Rather than memorizing, kids are encouraged to think and make deeper connections. The Evaluate lesson at the end tests students’ understanding and makes them apply knowledge in a meaningful way.

Ms Cobia, thank you for talking with us and sharing your story!