Gray and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania examined the effects of Zoology One, an integrated science and literacy curriculum, on Philadelphia kindergarteners’ literacy skills and reading motivation. As shortages of students entering STEM careers grow larger, an emergent body of literature supports the need for engagement in science instruction early on in schooling. Young students who naturally show an appetite for scientific inquiry, this motivation for science tends to be weakened as they get older. As such, early science exposure offers the roots for scientific understanding that can be developed in later grades and serve as a motivating force for science learning.
The researchers employed a randomized control trial design in 71 classrooms of 21 schools, randomly assigning classrooms to treatment or control conditions. Treatment classrooms implemented Zoology One in place of regular literacy instruction for 2 hours per day throughout the entire school year. The curriculum’s four 9-week units cover an introduction, zoology, ecology, and entomology units and incorporate daily instruction in reading, writing, and science, via themed teacher read-aloud, scientific inquiry, as well as parental involvement. Teachers in the treatment condition were asked to not provide additional science instruction, while control teachers provided their usual science instruction throughout the school year. Pre and post tests were administered in the fall and spring of treatment years to measure students’ decoding and comprehension, reading and letter naming fluency, writing, science knowledge, and motivation to read.
- Analysis revealed Zoology One had significant impacts on comprehension, letter-naming fluency, and motivation to read, with effect sizes of +0.16, +0.23, and +0.32, respectively.
- There was no significant effect for writing, decoding, or science.
While these findings are mixed, the authors note that teacher fidelity to program implementation plays a large role in facilitating improved outcomes. Furthermore, Zoology One’s substantial effects on students’ motivation to read show promise as a pathway for accelerating reading experience and proficiency.
Source: Gray, A. M., Sirinides, P. M., Fink, R. E., & Bowden, A. B. (2021). Integrating literacy and science instruction in kindergarten: Results from the efficacy study of Zoology One. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 0(0), 1–27. https://doi.org/10.1080/19345747.2021.1938313