Document Type



The United States is experiencing a rise in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers while facing a shortage of STEM workers. This could partly be due to a decline in the amount of time allowed for science in elementary schools or possibly because many life science lessons in elementary school lack originality and may not stimulate an interest in science. Lack of captivating STEM education prior to college may be contributing to the decline of students graduating with STEM based degrees. My thesis focuses on getting out of the routine of using monotonous life science lesson plans. I identify gaps within science education of how life science is currently taught in elementary classrooms by compiling a literature review and develop an example lesson based on real-world scientific experimentation. I use my undergraduate research growing milkweeds with and without mycorrhizae, a symbiotic fungus that grows on plant roots, as an example for how elementary students might conduct real-world science experiments. I grew milkweed plants in a greenhouse setting and added mycorrhizae to half of the plants. I measured plant growth using stem width, leaf length, height, and leaf count. My experiment would be easy to replicate in a classroom because milkweed is easy to grow and the measurements easy to take. The experiment looks at relationships between species. The mycorrhizae benefit the milkweed by supporting nutrient uptake, and the milkweed provide food for Monarch butterflies. I connect the lessons to the Massachusetts Science Technology Engineering standards, as well as writing, math, and reading standards. I have explored what is missing in teaching life science in elementary classrooms today and have provided a lesson unit on milkweed and mycorrhizae fungi as an example of how real science experiments can be used in an elementary classroom.


Biology and Elementary Education

Thesis Comittee

Dr. Nicole Glen, Thesis Advisor

Dr. M. Caitlin Fisher-Reid, Committee Member

Dr. M. Caitlin Fisher-Reid, Committee Member

Copyright and Permissions

Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.