ERIC Identifier: ED324194
Publication Date: 1990-00-00
Author: Blosser, Patricia E.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science Mathematics and Environmental
Education Columbus OH.
Current Projects and Activities in K-12 Science Education
Curriculum Development. ERIC/SMEAC Science Education Digest No. 3.
HOW DO THE REFORMS OF THE 90S DIFFER FROM THOSE OF THE POST-SPUTNIK
To quote an active science curriculum developer, "...the 1990s are not
the 1960s" (Bybee, 1990:92). Advances in science and technology, information
in philosophy and psychology, and changes in society have placed different
demands on science education. According to Bybee, these demands are such
that they cannot be met through revision of the 1960s curriculum or current
textbook programs--major reform is needed.
An increased understanding of how students learn is reflected in materials
and instructional approaches that reflect the idea that learners build
or construct their own knowledge based on their observations and experiences.
If learners' self-constructed knowledge differs from the concepts presented
in formal science instruction, curriculum materials and instructional approaches
must be used that bring about conceptual change. Learners must be involved
in experiences that challenge their current conceptions. Then they must
be provided with more experiences and given time to reconstruct more adequate
explanations or new concepts. Finally, learners must be given the opportunity
to apply the new concepts and evaluate their adequacy. Because more time
is required to learn concepts, fewer concepts can be taught during the
Post-Sputnik curricula in science were organized to reflect the structure
of the discipline and were aimed primarily at encouraging students to pursue
science or science-related careers. The curriculum projects currently underway
appear to focus more on science for all, with their emphasis on future
As in the 1960s, the National Science Foundation is involved in supporting
science curriculum development. The seven projects currently being developed
at the elementary and middle school levels all involve triads of scientists
and science educators, schools, and publishers. The science curriculum
improvement projects of the 60s had supplementary materials in the form
of lab blocks, films and filmstrips, and other media. Those of the 90s
reflect advances in technology and involve interactive videodiscs, computers,
and national computer networks, among other, more usual materials and equipment.
WHAT ARE SOME LARGE-SCALE PROJECTS?
Project 2061, Science for All Americans, is a project directed by F.
James Rutherford for the American Association of the Advancement of Science
(AAAS). Its central goal is that of developing answers for questions related
to scientific literacy: (1) what is the substance of scientific literacy?
(2) who should be expected to acquire the requisite knowledge and skills?
(3) how can scientific literacy be achieved nationwide?
Six basic dimensions of scientific literacy were identified by the 2061
council: (1) being familiar with the natural world and recognizing both
its diversity and its unity; (2) understanding key concepts and principles
of science; (3) being aware of some of the important ways in which science,
mathematics, and technology depend upon one another; (4) knowing that science,
mathematics,and technology are human enterprises and knowing what that
implies about their strengths and limitations; (5) having a capacity for
scientific ways of thinking; (6) using scientific knowledge and ways of
thinking for individual and social purposes (Science for All Americans,
Five criteria govern the choice of science content used to help achieve
the goal of scientific literacy: (1) utility--in terms of long-term employment,
in making personal decisions; (2) social responsibility--as an aid in making
intelligent decisions on social and political matters involving science
and technology; (3) intrinsic value of knowledge--information so important
or so pervasive in our culture that a general education would not be complete
without it; (4) philosophical value--aids a person's ability to ponder
enduring questions of human meaning; and (5) childhood enrichment--will
it enhance childhood rather than just possibly being useful in later life
(Science for All Americans, 1989:21).
Phase II, involving the development of several alternative curriculum
models, is currently underway in different locations. ERIC readers interested
in specific sites and activities should contact AAAS, 1333 H Street, NW,
Washington, DC 20005.
Also underway is a science reform effort originating with the Executive
Director of the National Science Teachers Association, Bill Aldridge. Known
as the NSTA Project on Scope, Sequence, and Coordination of Secondary School
Science, this project is similar to 2061 in that its intent is to make
science accessible to all students. Aldridge contends that American science
education could be greatly improved if the sequence of offering separate
courses, a different science each year, were abandoned in favor of spreading
these subjects over the four (or six years) of a student's secondary education,
with content from each of the sciences being taught each year in some appropriate
fashion for the student's level of cognitive development.
There are two essential features of the model Aldridge proposes: (1)
spaced learning, with science taught over several years; and (2) progression
from the descriptive to the abstract in terms of concepts. Although Aldridge
believes in separate science disciplines, this model could integrate (rather
than coordinate) the sciences (NSTA Reports!, 1989).
However the science curriculum is organized, students in grade 7 and
8 should have an instructional approach that is descriptive and that involves
experiences with phenomena in a hands-on setting. In grades 9 and 10, the
approach shifts to empirical and becomes semiquantitative. In grades 11
and 12, science instruction can emphasize the theoretical and abstract
Project 2061 and the NSTA Scope, Sequence, and Coordination Project
have focused primarily on secondary school science. Some school systems
are already modifying their science curriculum to more closely follow the
guidelines established by Project 2061. This modified curriculum may be
presented to students using the scope and sequence model proposed by NSTA.
WHAT ARE THE ACTIVITIES THAT FOCUS ON TEACHING SCIENCE TO ELEMENTARY
AND MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS?
As mentioned earlier, these curriculum projects involve scientists and
science educators, schools, and publishers. Some materials are ready for
trial and formative evaluation, others are still in production. These projects
share some characteristics in that the curriculum materials are designed
to help children develop an understanding of key concepts, hands-on activities
are emphasized along with the development of problem-solving skills, science
concepts are related to social and environmental concerns, and science
is integrated with the rest of the elementary curriculum--especially writing,
mathematics, and reading.
Several of the elementary school science projects make use of media.
Super Science, funded by NSF and Scholastic, Inc. consists of two classroom
magazines: one for grades 1-3 (red edition) and the other for grades 4-6
(blue edition). These magazines are accompanied by computer disk resources
containing activities that blend science with math, reading, and social
studies. Activities stress process skills and the teacher guide contains
suggestions for extending the science concepts into other subjects.
The National Geographic Society's (NGS) Kids Network curriculum and
software have been produced in collaboration with Technical Education Research
Centers, Inc. (TERC) of Cambridge, MA, through funding from NSF and NGS
as well as support from Apple Computers, Inc. The NGS Kids Network gives
fourth, fifth and sixth grade students the opportunity to collect and analyze
data and to share their findings through the extensive use of telecommunications.
Kids Network units may be used to enrich existing courses or as a complete
course. The units are blends of classroom activities, network exchanges,
and software tools.
Addison-Wesley Publishers, along with NSF, is involved in the Life Lab
Science Program. "The Growing Classroom" is a garden-based program for
children in grades 2-6. It combines elementary school science and nutrition
education, using hands-on activities that enable students to investigate
in a cooperative learning setting.
"Insights" is an elementary school science curriculum targeted specifically
to urban systems challenged by large numbers of low-income, minority, and
special needs children. In such systems, science education has traditionally
been a low priority. This is a collaborative effort of NSF, the Education
Development Center in Newton, MA, and Wings for Learning, a Sunburst Company.
The developers have made an effort to balance life, physical and earth
sciences in choosing themes, topics, and natural phenomena to be investigated.
Where appropriate, the experiences are tied to an urban setting. Designed
for grades K-6, the curriculum will consist of modules organized around
five themes: systems, change, structure and function, diversity, and cause
The Full Option Science System (FOSS) is the product of the Lawrence
Hall of Science, NSF, and Encyclopedia Britannica Educational Corporation.
This program is for students in grades 3-6. Like the other projects, FOSS
is a hands-on laboratory science program. It will consist of 16 self-contained
modules. Four modules, two at each grade-level grouping, will be focused
on one of four themes: scientific reasoning, physical science, earth science,
and life science. This program can be used to enrich a science program
or serve as the program. FOSS is multisensory in design so that disabled
students can experience science in mainstreamed settings.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science in cooperation with NSF and Silver,
Burdett and Ginn is working on The Science Connection for grades 1-6. This
project is designed to supplement existing basal science texts with materials
to enhance science content and to improve students' abilities to think
critically. Science Adventure Storybooks introduce science concepts within
the context of everyday student experiences through high-interest adventures.
Extending Science, Interdisciplinary Activity Books provide projects in
language arts, fine arts, mathematics, and social studies that have science
themes and apply science content. THE "Science Mini-Museum Construction
Kits" feature unique and interesting manipulatives.
The Biological Science Curriculum Study (BSCS), working with NSF and
Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, has developed Science for Life and Living:
Integrating Science, Technology and Health. Designed to include a full
year of instruction at each grade level, K-6, the program has three unifying
themes: science as a way of knowing, technology as a way of doing, and
health as a way of behaving. Reading, writing and mathematics are emphasized
throughout the program where appropriate. The instructional model for this
program is an adaptation of the learning cycle and is based on a constructivist
view of learning (Bybee, 1990).
Florida State University, NSF, and Houghton Mifflin are working on the
Interactive Media Science project, to be commercially marketed as Science
Quest. This project, designed for students in grades six through nine,
will have nine interactive video discs. Three discs each will be focused
on topics in life science, earth/space, and physical science.
The fundamental assumption of Science Quest is that science should be
multidisciplinary and should serve a general education function for all
students. Activities are designed and structured to promote problem solving,
decision making, and critical thinking skills. The program is intended
to complement and support an existing middle school science curriculum
Aldridge, Bill. "Essential Changes in Secondary Science: Scope, Sequence,
and Coordination," NSTA Reports!, January-February, 1989.
Bybee, Rodger W. and Nancy M. Landes. "Science for Life and Living,"
The American Biology Teacher, 52 (2): 92-98, February, 1990.
Dawson, George. Personal communication, July 6, 1990.
FOSS Newsclips. Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkeley, CA, Spring, 1990.
Insights for Learning: A Hands-On Science Curriculum. Improving Urban
Elementary Science, Education Development Center, Inc., Newton, MA (no
Interactive Media Science Project. Florida State University, Tallahassee,
National Geographic KIDS Network. Technical Education Research Centers,
Inc., Cambridge, MA, Spring 1990.
Science for All Americans. American Association for the Advancement
of Science, Washington, DC, 1989. ED 309 059.
Sneak Preview of Science for Life and Living: Integrating Science, Technology
and Health. Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, Colorado Springs, CO,
"Super Science," Scholastic, Inc., Jefferson City, MO (published eight
times a year).
The Growing Classroom, Garden-Based Science. Addison-Wesley Publishers,
Reading, MA, (no date).
The Science Connection. Houston Museum of Natural Science, and Silver,
Burdett and Ginn, Houston, TX, (no date).