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Elementary and Primary Education
Kindergarten Students Learn Chemistry Through Children’s Literature
News Release
Tuesday, December 04, 2018

When you think of kindergarten classes, you picture kids playing with building blocks and coloring. However, kindergarten students at Franz Elementary in Katy Independent School District are learning chemistry through children’s literature. This curriculum was made possible from Harris County Department of Education Teaching and Learning Center’s Science Fiction: Teaching Chemistry with Children’s Literature workshop.

HCDE Curriculum Director of Science Lisa Felske taught the course for many years, but it is now offered online for busy educators who can work at their own pace like Katy ISD Title 1 Science Facilitator Tammy Matthews.

“In searching for trainings to go to better myself this year, I searched the HCDE website and found that they were offering several online courses,” Matthews said. “Of course, with our busy schedules I thought great, this would be perfect for me to do.”

The title of the workshop seemed intriguing to her because she wanted to better the science curriculum in her district.



“I am trying to grow my rigor in the lower elementary in science courses as well as the upper elementary,” Matthews said. “In looking into it, I just felt like it was a great fit for me especially being online.”

This course covers topics in chemistry like metals, nonmetals, dissolving, properties of matter and soil chemistry. Children’s books used in the course are “Zack’s Alligator,” “Two Bad Ants,” “Gregory the Terrible Eater” and “Diary of a Worm.”

Franz Elementary kindergarten bilingual teacher Patricia Muskus went through the same workshop about eight years ago and has been using “Zack’s Alligator” in her classroom.

“I liked it so much because it is more orientated towards kindergartners, so I brought it back to my team and have been doing the lesson every year,” Muskus said. “We did the measurement portion of the lesson, but this year added the sections of weight and absorption.”

Students enjoyed the fact that there’s an alligator named Bridget in the story. Each classroom has their very own Bridget to water and see how she grows. 

“It’s truly engaging because we’re learning vocabulary, changes and measurements, which is a very wide range of learning,” Muskus said. “It takes about two weeks for this lesson because we’re observing the changes in size of Bridget the Alligator and recording them in a journal.”

Currently, Franz Elementary is the only school in Katy ISD using the program but Matthews will be sharing the curriculum with teachers at other Katy schools.  

Photo: Franz Elementary teacher Patricia Muskus introduces chemistry through children’s literature book: “Zack’s Alligator.”

About Harris County Department of Education: HCDE provides special education, therapy services, early education, adult education and after-school programming. Services are funded by government grants, fees and a local property tax of approximately $9 per homeowner. For every dollar in local property tax collected, HCDE provides $4.40 in services to the 25 Harris County school districts. We operate four campuses for students with profound special education needs and adjudicated or recovering youth who require a low, student-teacher ratio and highly structured environment. One-hundred percent of students served on HCDE campuses are at-risk. We are governed by an elected board of seven trustees and have 1,076 employees and 33 facilities, including 15 Head Start centers. More info at

About Good News You Can Use: “Good News You Can Use” showcases the partnerships between Harris county Department of Education and school districts and organizations.

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