Secondary Education

Are Baking Soda Volcanos Your Jam? Here’s How to Become a Science Coach.

Are Baking Soda Volcanos Your Jam? Here’s How to Become a Science Coach.
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Lucien Formichella profile
Lucien Formichella June 10, 2019

If one educational lesson can be taken from *Chernobyl*, it is that leadership is critical for scientific success.

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From Teacher to Science Coach

If one educational lesson can be taken from Chernobyl, it is that leadership is critical for scientific success.

Hopefully, as a science coach, the biggest explosion you deal with might be a baking soda volcano, but even without the lessons of a nuclear meltdown, the job offers students learning experiences that instill a passion and love of STEM. Science coaches are similar to math coaches and health coaches in that the roles are “instructional”—meaning these coaches work mainly with teachers to help them develop curriculums and improve their craft through training.


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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Science Coach

There are several key characteristics of strong instructional coaches:

  • The ability to develop thoughtful curriculums
  • Stellar communication skills
  • The relationship skills to teach both adults and children alike
  • An understanding of big-picture goals, and how best to work toward them
  • The best kind of coach works for the student and helps to develop their thinking and skills, minimizing instructional coaching mistakes

In addition to the above qualities, understanding the day-to-day job description of science coaches is of equal importance before committing to this career. Whether these tasks (and, in some cases, requirements) are classified as pros or cons is entirely up to you:

  • To pursue a career as a science coach, a bachelor’s degree is a must, and a master’s degree is a plus
  • In many ways, science coaches are responsible for more than teachers
  • Science coaches must be comfortable working with groups, as well as with a number of personalities (teachers can get stuck in their ways, too)
  • Coaching is not as hands-on as teaching, so you may not actually get to build that volcano
  • Depending on the school, the administration might be a pro or a con (make sure your role as a science coach is clearly defined and communicated)

Kinds of Science Coaches

Like what’s required of other instructional coaches, if you want to coach science in a K-12 school, you must have at least a few years of teaching experience. You will also likely be required to have a teaching certification in the state you want to work in, which sounds redundant if you’ve already been teaching, but you gotta cover all bases.

Another path to becoming a science coach is through being a scientist first. This could be good if you are a scientist who is thinking about retiring but still wants to be involved in a school setting. Like a gym teacher with a sports science degree who wants to share their kinesiology expertise and the benefits of active living with students, you also might be somebody who just wants to give back and share your enthusiasm with the younger generation.

The American Chemical Society offers the One-on-One program, which helps pair chemists with teachers in elementary, middle, and high schools for one year. The pair meets “at least six times during the school year.” This training program can take place in the classroom, or privately with the teacher to develop lessons.

This program does not require a teaching degree, and it is open to chemistry professionals, graduate students, professors, retired/semi-retired professionals, and former/retired chemistry teachers, according to the ACA website.


Educational Commitment for Becoming a Science Coach

As a science coach, the more education you have, the better. Instructional coaches are often teachers first and plucked right from the classroom. That means one way to become the best science coach you can be, is by first becoming the best teacher you can be. Depending on your state requirements, you may need to go back to school after completing your bachelor’s degree to pursue a master’s degree program.

When sharing your knowledge, find some way to stand out from all the other teachers. Maybe you could literally stand on your desk like Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society. Just, don’t send your kids into the woods to conduct illegal experiments and dance around drinking wine out of beakers though. Professional you is best.


Licensure and Accreditation for Science Coaches

Every state has different policies for becoming an instructional coach. For instance, a recent job posting for a science coach in Nashua requires that the applicant be, “NH certified in Elementary Education with a minimum of three years of successful K-6 classroom teaching experience. Successful experience in facilitating adult learners. Knowledge of Elementary School curriculum and instruction is required, especially Science.”

A posting for a position in Georgia requires a bachelor’s degree in education, and Georgia Professional Standards Commission certification in either Early Grade Education, Middle Grades Math or Science, or CTAE Computer Science or Engineering Technology.

Check what schools in your area are looking for in education and work experience, or even try to get in contact with current science coaches to ask how they got to where you want to be. Most importantly, look at credentialing requirements.


Resources for Science Coaches

There are great resources for science coaches who are looking to advance their professional development. Here are just a few of them:

  • Talking to science teachers on science education websites, blogs, and even science career coaching sites is a plus. When it comes to teaching, there are many opinions on teaching and learning, but using your resources wisely and talking with those you respect about their approach can’t be a bad thing
  • Everybody knows about the school science fair. Some might have even had the unique experience of staying up all night in the basement with their dad while trying to figure out how to connect six lemons with wires and a nail in order to power a light bulb. If you want more power than a 1.5-volt bulb, however, you might want to look into taking the role of a coach literally and get involved with Science Olympiad or FIRST Robotics. Competitions like these allow students to work on projects and compete with high-achieving kids from other schools in science events, such as forensic analysis or building a damn robot. It also allows coaches to get together and talk with each other, and share ideas.

Typical Advancement Path in Science Coaching

Becoming a science coach is a great way to increase your responsibilities, such as managing a higher workload, and teaching adults and children. Sometimes, teachers who become coaches later become principals. If you are motivated as a science coach, this might be a possible career path.

Science coaching could also be a nice way to wind down your career. The ACA program is open to professionals who are in the process of retiring. Perhaps you’re tired of research, or don’t have as many career opportunities as you used to, like this guy.

Maybe you’re burned out running a nuclear power plant, and want to get into tutoring or coaching a Science Olympiad or FIRST robotics team as a way to reignite your own passion for science. Unlike math coaching, there seem to be more opportunities for science coaches to transition from their regular jobs into a position working with kids and teaching science.

As long as you have the knowledge, you have the power, especially in the world of math and science.


Questions or feedback? Email editor@noodle.com

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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