Editor's Introduction to the K-12 Science Curricula Articles
A recent report (Roseman, 2006) from AAAS Project 2061 pointed out that the need for closer collaboration between institutions of higher education and the K-12 education system: "It is . clear that educators at both levels have knowledge and expertise that can be of benefit to the other."
This section of the newsletter will hopefully help educators in higher education learn from the experience of K-12 science educators, particularly curriculum developers. These articles describe some of the most innovative and widely used inquiry based science programs in K-12 science education. All programs have the commonality of students actively involved in their learning, although each has their own unique approach. Most involve a carefully sequenced progressive series of activities that follow a learning cycle. The activities are arranged around coherent learning goals that are based on national science standards.
Providing a broader perspective are articles on the impact of national (but voluntary) K-12 science education standards as well as the role of the NSF in funding the development of innovative K-12 science curricula.
When soliciting articles for this newsletter, I asked the authors to consider the following issues:
- How was your program developed, what key aspects have made it successful, and what issues arose during its implementation?
- What lessons learned from your curriculum development are applicable to undergraduate and graduate level instructional materials
- The National Science Education Standards have recently played a major role in shaping curriculum and instruction at the K-12 level. Would standards be useful at the undergraduate and graduate levels?
While not all authors explicitly addressed these issues, the readers should find that the authors' discussions provide ample food for thought.
There are a variety of reasons why K-12 science curricula should be of interest and relevant to Forum members:
- The science skills and knowledge of students entering colleges and universities result from K-12 science curricula
- Many students in colleges and universities will someday be using these K-12 science curricula if they become teachers, so they will need appropriate pre-service professional development
- Engaging and effective K-12 science curricula will increase the number and diversity of future scientists and engineers and will increase the science literacy of all students
- These curricula follow the scientific process where students engage in and then explore physical phenomena by planning and performing experiments, learn to understand and explain their results in a variety of ways, talk and write about their efforts, and then utilize their new knowledge (Morrow, 2000). As such, these curricula are preparing students to be independent scientific thinkers and investigators, which are also goals of higher education.
The utilization of inquiry based active learning in K-12 science education began more than 40 years ago. This innovation is starting to diffuse into higher education. Lessons learned from K-12 science education reform should be applicable to improving undergraduate as well as graduate science education.
Roseman, Jo Ellen and Koppal, Mary, "Ensuring That College Graduates are Science Literate: Implications of K-12 Benchmarks and Standards," Chapter 32 in the Handbook of College Science Teaching, NSTA Press 2006. Online at < www.project2061.org/handbook >
Morrow, Cherilynn A., "What Are the Similarities between Scientific Research and Science Education Reform?", Space Science Institute, March 2000, Online at < http://www.scientistsineducation.org/reccd/presentations/Similar.pdf >
Lawrence Woolf (Larry.Woolf@ga.com) is a materials/optical physicist and program manager at General Atomics. He has been active in many aspects of K-12 science education outreach and curriculum development for over 15 years. For more details, see: < http://www.sci-ed-ga.org >