Preservice teachers are often faced with tension between theory about effective science education and practice. Service learning is one method for helping bridge the disconnect in meaningful ways that are mutually beneficial for both preservice teachers and community partners. With the recent adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in most states, and the upcoming accountability testing for science, some elementary schools are beginning to shift toward more science instruction that supports students’ developing understanding of science concepts, as well as the practices in which scientists engage. This transition time provides an excellent opportunity to purposefully partner universities with elementary schools in an effort to support science education (for preservice teachers, inservice teachers, and elementary school students). We have redesigned our science methods course to integrate service learning to provide our preservice teachers with authentic experiences for teaching the effective pedagogical strategies and theories learned in the course. This paper describes the service learning component of our science methods course, which includes a unique field experience. It also illustrates evidence of the positive impact this service learning approach has had on our preservice teachers and community partners, and lessons learned through the process.
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