We use a 10-year program of research centered on iterations of one elementary science methods course as a vehicle for exploring three important and interrelated goals for the learning of beginning elementary teachers. These include learning about inquiry-oriented science teaching, using science curriculum materials effectively, and anticipating and working with students' ideas in instruction. For each goal we discuss how the literature informs our thinking, describe relevant aspects of our design of the course, and present findings of our research with regard to preservice teachers' experiences in and learning from aspects of the course. For each goal, we also highlight examples from our longitudinal work following the preservice teachers into their early years as elementary teachers, to provide a glimpse of teachers' trajectories related to each of the themes. We close with a discussion of implications for research and practice in elementary science teacher education. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed93:745–770, 2009