This research is concerned with preservice teacher understanding of six earth and space science concepts that are often taught in elementary school: the reason for seasons, phases of the moon, why the wind blows, the rock cycle, soil formation, and earthquakes. Specifically, this study examines the effect of readings, hands-on learning stations, and concept mapping in improving conceptual understanding. Undergraduates in two sections of a science methods course (N= 52) completed an open-ended survey, giving explanations about the above concepts three times: as a pretest and twice as posttests after various instructional interventions. The answers, scored with a three point rubric, indicated that the preservice teachers initially had many misconceptions (alternative conceptions). A two way ANOVA with repeated measures analysis (pretest/posttest) demonstrated that readings and learning stations are both successful in building preservice teacher's understanding and that benefits from the hands-on learning stations approached statistical significance. Concept mapping had an additive effect in building understanding, as evident on the second posttest. The findings suggest useful strategies for university science instructors to use in clarifying science concepts while modeling activities teachers can use in their own classrooms.