Teachers of K-12, including early childhood educators, we have until August 2nd, 2010 to comment on the preliminary public draft of the Conceptual Framework for New Science Education Standards
Here are a few paragraphs from the beginning of the document to get you interested:
“This document is an interim draft of a report from a committee of the National Research Council (NRC) on K-12 science education in U.S. schools. It is being made public so that the authoring committee can receive comments and suggestions from interested practitioners, researchers, and the public to inform its final product.” (first page of Memo)
[Peggy: They want to hear from us! Therefore the authors may be forgiven for staying within the K-12 scope by describing children who are “entering school” as being kindergarteners. In this preschool teacher’s view, children “enter” school the first time they are formally taught, at home, in preschool, or in kindergarten.]
“The conceptual framework in this report presents the committee’s vision of the scope and nature of the education in science and engineering that is needed in the 21st century. Thus, it describes the major scientific ideas and practices that all students should be familiar with by the end of high school. Engineering and technology are featured alongside the natural sciences in recognition of the importance of understanding the designed world and of the need to better integrate the teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” (Chapter 1, Introduction: A New Conceptual Framework, pg. 1-1)
“The rationale for organizing content around core ideas comes from studies that show that one major difference between experts and novices in any field is the organization of their knowledge. Experts understand the core principles and theoretical frameworks of their field. Their retention of detailed information is aided by their understanding of its placement in the context of these principles and theories. Novices tend to hold disconnected and even contradictory bits of “knowledge” as isolated facts, and struggle to find a way to organize and integrate them. Learning to understand science or engineering in a more expert fashion requires development of an understanding of how facts are related to each other and to overarching core ideas. Research on learning shows building this kind of understanding is challenging, but is aided by explicit instructional support that stresses connections across different activities and learning experiences.” (Chapter 1, Introduction: A New Conceptual Framework, Understanding Develops Over Time, pg. 1-6)
[Peggy: Making connections may be easier in early childhood—before students have different teachers for different subjects.]
“As a result of our effort to identify fewer core ideas of science and engineering, some scientists and educators may be disappointed to find little or nothing of their favorite science topics included in this framework. The committee is convinced that by building a strong base of core knowledge and competencies, understood at a deep enough level to be used and applied, students will leave school with a better grounding in scientific knowledge and practices and greater interest in further learning in science, than those whose instruction “covers” multiple disconnected pieces of information, to be memorized and forgotten as soon as the test is done.” (Chapter 1, Introduction: A New Conceptual Framework, Selecting Core Ideas and Practices, pgs. 1-14 & 1-15)
[Peggy: Yes, let children work on a few topics or concepts for a long time to develop the deep understanding they are capable of. There are many favorites still in the mix.]
There are four grade level bands, K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12. I have only taken a brief look at Chapter 3, Core Ideas and Chapter 7, Learning Progressions, (similar in structure to the conceptual strand maps in the Atlas of Science Literacy (AAAS)), and see that there is more than one progression for each branch of science, one for each Core Idea. I definitely need more time to read and think about this draft and may need to see it printed out to really be able to think about it.
Here’s one question I have:
Does the Life Science Core Ideas 1, or 3, (see below) need to add something about plants and animals needing access to air into the K-2 section? Maybe it is omitted because the concept of matter existing as a gas is not introduced in the Physical Science Core Idea progression until Grades 3-5 (also below).
Grades K – 2
How do living things meet their basic needs?
All living things have various external parts. Different animals use their body parts in different ways to see, hear, grasp objects, seek, find and take in food and move from place to place. Plants also have different parts that help them meet their needs.
On page 7-11, LS Core Idea 3: Organisms and populations of organisms obtain necessary resources from their environment which includes other organisms and physical factors.
Grades K – 2
Where do animals get food?
Animals depend on plants and other animals for food. When animals and plants (or plant parts) die, they are fed upon by tiny organisms that break them apart. Plants depend on air, water and light to grow.
On page 7-40, Physical Science (PS) Core Idea 1: Macroscopic states and characteristic properties of matter depend on the type, arrangement and motion of particles at the molecular and atomic scales.
Grades K – 2
What kind of parts are objects made of? (macroscopic)
Objects are generally made of different parts. The parts can be made of different materials. Materials can be natural or manufactured from natural resources. The identity, characteristics and function of an object depend on the materials/building blocks used to make it, and the way they fit together. The same materials can exist as a solid or a liquid depending on the temperature. Solids have a definite shape while liquids flow to the lowest level in the container.
Grades 3 – 5
How do the parts of an object affect its structure and function? (macroscopic)
All substances are considered matter. Matter can exist as solid, liquid, or gas. In all forms it can be felt and weighed. It is possible to break materials apart into pieces too tiny to see. However, the material still exists and continues to have weight even though we can’t see it. You can make a great variety of objects with just a few types of components. The structure, properties and uses of the objects depend on the nature of the components and they ways they attach to one-another, but can be quite different from those of the components. Knowing about the characteristics of materials helps design uses of them. Many substances can exist as solid, liquid or gas depending on the temperature. Solids have definite shape and volume, liquids also occupy definite volume, but not shape, gases are made of particles too small to see that move around throughout the full volume of any container.
Thank you to all involved in this important endeavor. Let’s take a close look and give the committee our feedback. A survey will be posted on July 14, 2010.