Although the PhysTEC project focuses on high school teacher education, it also recognizes the great need for elementary teachers who can teach physical science confidently and effectively. A growing body of evidence suggests that students’ early educational experience can profoundly influence their attitudes toward science and their decisions whether or not to pursue a science career. Elementary teachers cannot be expected to master physics concepts at the same level as a high school teacher who specializes in the field, but research has shown that carefully constructed semester-long curricula can significantly improve both elementary teachers’ attitudes toward science and their ability to teach using inquiry. For this reason, the project has encouraged its sites to create and, if possible, require physical science courses for future elementary teachers using research-based curricula such as Physics and Everyday Thinking (PET), Physics by Inquiry (PbI), and Powerful Ideas in Physical Science (PIPS) in their physical science content courses for future elementary teachers.
PhysTEC sites now graduate about 500 elementary teachers per year who have taken at least one reformed science or methods course. In total, PhysTEC has improved the preparation of about 3,000 elementary teachers.