“If you can light the spark of curiosity in a child, they will learn without any further assistance.”
A good science curriculum sparks curiosity in a child. Unfortunately, many outdated subject-based science programs do not foster curiosity in the younger grades. Instead, they consist of unrelated activities that don’t build lasting knowledge and cause children to lose interest in the subject.
The good news is there are science programs centered on modern standards and frameworks. But what do you look for? Here are some tips:
NGSS Three Dimensional Learning
Because science is not static, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and their three dimensions shift the focus of science education from fact trivia to the ability to create, analyze, and evaluate.
NGSS’s three dimensions are:
- Science and Engineering Practices – a skillset that scientists and engineers use to answer questions and solve problems in the real world: investigating, interpreting data, making claims based on evidence, etc.
- Crosscutting Concepts – these are concepts that apply across all scientific disciplines and include:
- Scale, proportion, and quantity
- Cause and effect
- Energy and matter
- Structure and function
- Systems and system models
- Stability and change
- Disciplinary Core Ideas – this is the “content” of science. It consists of the material that students are expected to learn and understand.
Many science administrations across the nation accept NGSS, as it reflects a better way to teach science. A 2018 Northeastern University case study by Tracy Leann Waters discovered that using a science curriculum aligned to NGSS increased collaboration, test scores, and positive classroom behavior.
Teachers who participated in Waters’ study said reading nonfiction text in the science curriculum improved students’ ELA test scores. Those who worked with immigrant students saw ELL skills improve, and attributed that to NGSS materials including lots of graphic content, hands-on activities, and bolded vocabulary.
One teacher in the study said, “The kids are all coming in at such a level playing field because nobody walks in knowing what photosynthesis is, so it’s so cool to hear kids who don’t know that much English, yet they know about photosynthesis and can talk about it.”
Studies Weekly Science is a core science curriculum based on NGSS 3D learning. The three dimensions associated with each week are listed at the beginning of the Teacher Edition. The Crosscutting Concept is highlighted in green, while the Science and Engineering Practice is highlighted in blue so teachers can easily find them.
(Read our NGSS Standards Correlation to see how each grade in Studies Weekly Science aligns with NGSS.)
Literacy & Hands-On Learning
We know social studies and science compete with ELA and math for classroom time. In our 30 years in the education industry, we’ve heard time and time again that if science can help with ELA, teachers will get more science into their week.
Students learn language best through context, and multiple studies support the idea of context and content-rich instruction for English language development. After all, students have to talk, read, and write about something.
According to Lauren M. Shea and Therese Shanahan in a 2002 NSTA article, there is a natural synergy between science and language that provides opportunities for student understanding of English Language Arts that is not achievable through separate instruction.
However, students can’t just learn science by reading about it; they need to get their hands dirty; that is why nearly every article in Studies Weekly Science ties into a hands-on activity.
In this example from 2nd Grade, you can see how the lesson about the water cycle starts with a reading component aimed at building scientific vocabulary. Notice how each reading box highlights NGSS crosscutting concepts, which helps children better understand science and engineering practices. With that background knowledge, the content seamlessly transitions into hands-on activities to deepen understanding through observation and investigation.
The phenomenon-driven approach is a learner-centered, multidisciplinary instructional approach based on student inquiry and personal problem-solving. Students investigate a phenomenon by asking questions, researching facts, and delivering solutions or answers. Teachers guide them through the process by scaffolding the steps and helping them through complex concepts.
In traditional subject-based learning, teachers stand in front of the class and lecture while students take notes. As a result, students focus on memorizing facts instead of getting involved in the learning process and applying what they learn to real life. A science curriculum that uses a phenomenon-driven approach is student-focused and will foster meaningful engagement.
In Studies Weekly Science, each week begins with a compelling, accessible, and relevant natural phenomenon. It’s introduced with a question on the front cover of the Student Edition.
The first and last articles connect the reading and activities to the phenomenon, giving each unit a clear purpose.
The Teacher Edition centers around the weekly phenomenon with instructions, tools, and videos (or pictures) to facilitate a lively, student-led discussion.
Science has a unique power to engage students in the wonder of the world around them. But too often, the wrong curriculum or instruction focuses on facts and memorization, and ignores the exploration and discovery inherent in the scientific process. This squashes student enjoyment and interest before it can even start. If you choose a science curriculum centered on modern frameworks and standards, you will maintain the highest quality of instruction, and inspire students at your district.
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