MISSION AND GOALS:
The Mission of the Science Department includes and supports District 15's mission to produce world-class learners by building a connected learning community.
The Goals of the Science Department support the Board of Education Goals and emphasize integrating technology across the district, ensuring that District 15 students meet or exceed state and world-class standards, excelling as an organization and raising the benchmarks, building a connected learning community, and becoming a world-class educational system.
Continuous Improvement is an ongoing process built into the Science Department. In order to support the mission and board goals, as a department, data and information is used to guide decisions to improve the system and processes within the system.
Job Performance and Staff Development are aligned to the mission and goals of District 15. As a department, it is our goal to be actively involved in professional development to continually improve our performance to support world-class learners.
DISTRICT 15 SCIENCE CURRICULUM AND BENCHMARKS:
The Science Curriculum in District 15 is aligned to the National Science Education Standards, Illinois State Standards and Benchmarks, as well as the District 15 Learner Statements. In Science these include state goals that emphasize process and content. The Illinois State Standards for Science include State Goals 11-13:
STATE GOAL 11: Understand the processes of scientific inquiry and technological design to investigate questions, conduct experiments, and solve problems.
STATE GOAL 12: Understand the fundamental concepts, principles and interconnections of the life, physical, and earth/space sciences.
STATE GOAL 13: Understand the relationships among science, technology and society in historical and contemporary contexts.
The District 15 Learner Statements provide students, staff, and community members a clear view of all content areas, including science and expectations at all grade levels. If you would like to know what every student should know and be able to do in science by grade level consult the District 15 Learner Statements.
The State Standards and Learner Statements have guided the process to align the District 15 science curriculum. The curriculum emphasizes two important aspects of science-processes and content.
Understanding both, process and content, are necessary to produce scientific literate citizens for the 21st century.
SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY AND THE PROCESSES:
Scientific inquiry includes students asking questions, constructing ideas and understanding the knowledge, facts, concepts, principles, theories and reasoning behind science principles that exist in the natural world. When students understand the scientific processes or methods used to arrive at science, they are working towards scientific literacy, the goal of science education.
Content at various grade levels differs to align to the state standards by benchmarks. Students at various grade levels study life, earth, space, and physical science. Specific knowledge related to content is stated in the District 15 Learner Statements. Benchmarks are established for Grades K-2, 3-5, and 6-8. Based on the benchmarks, science content in District 15 presents a spiraling curriculum to support "best practices" and research-based programs, as well as developmental stages of learning for the content aligned to state standards.
Junior high students will engage in learning opportunities that are aligned to the national Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These learning opportunities focus on getting students excited and curious about the big ideas of science. We also focus on building student’s confidence in their ability to figure out the world around them. Across the 7th and 8th grade years, students will explore physical, earth, and life sciences through inquiry based experiences. For example:
- “How do things inside our bodies work together to make us feel the way we do?”
- “Where does food come from and where does it go next?”
- “How do changes in the Earth's system impact our communities and what can we do about it?”
- “Why do things sometimes get damaged when they hit each other?”
READING IN THE CONTENT AREA OF SCIENCE:
Reading in the content area of science is strongly supported. The district has recommended to buildings and grade levels several trade books with different reading levels for each science unit. Differentiated instruction is encouraged, as well as, direct instruction, whole class instruction, small reading groups and individualized reading time within the science class. Several classrooms have established reading centers to support reading in the content area of science. Included in the reading centers are science resources and textbooks, as well as science journals and magazines, and other sources of science fiction and nonfiction books.
SCIENCE LEARNING AND THINKING:
Based on John Dewey's (1859-1952) philosophy of science and thinking: children "learn by doing." Students construct ideas from experiences and build upon those experiences. Students involved in science experiments are involved in the understanding of science and relationships within the natural world. Jean Piaget's (1896-1980) Knowledge and Theory of Cognitive Development helps us understand children and their way of thinking. Jerome Bruner (1915- ) has built upon Piaget's work and emphasized the importance of proposed problems and a spiral curriculum. Finally, Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) has added to the previous knowledge of Dewey, Piaget, and Bruner to build upon a constructivist model for science learning and education.
The National Science Education Standards states students who are engaged in inquiry "describe objects and events, ask questions, construct explanations, test explanations against current scientific thought and communicate their ideas."
Engaging students in inquiry requires less emphasis on textbooks and information and more on engaging students in real-world activities that involve students in process skills, exploring questions, solving problems and critical thinking. Students are engaged in questions and observations, data collection and investigations, as well as making inferences and drawing conclusions. When students are engaged in real-world activities, they are engaged in thinking and problem solving not just restating facts.
INTEGRATION OF TECHNOLOGY:
Technology plays a very unique role in science education. Digital cameras gather pictures of students engaged in real-world activities in science. Digital microscopes allow students to examine materials and specimens found in the world around them. Computers allow students to access the Internet, gather research and knowledge, and communicate with others around the world to support science concepts and their learning.
Technology is also used to gather, store, analyze and graph data. Technology such as laptops and probes, found currently in the upper grades, are used in various laboratory settings and called personal science labs or psl's. Students can use different probes to gather real-time data from temperature, pH, and light to acceleration, motion, pressure, and voltage. Students use laptops, probes, and ThinkStations to support the scientific processes engaging students in real-world data collection. Students can measure their own hang-time, the acceleration of their air cars or rockets, the temperature and pH of the water samples collected at Salt Creek, and see the data graphed instantly on laptop screens.
Students can even produce multimedia science reports by importing digital photos and sound, and even add video clips. These new tools provide data to guide students in the process of inquiry and thereby allowing students to be actively engaged in real-world activities. Integrated technology in science is preparing District 15 students for the 21st century-helping students to solve real-world problems and become world-class learners.
Science assessments begin with the standards in mind. Looking at the standards, what is it that we want every student to know and be able to do at their particular grade level? Examining the standards, one can easily determine the answer to this question. However, assessments vary throughout the lessons. A diagnostic assessment helps the science teacher determine the current point of learning or level of knowledge that each student brings with him/her based on each student's own experiences. From the initial or diagnostic assessment, each student may be asked to complete various tasks or activities throughout the science unit or lessons or formative assessment. Finally, when the unit or standards-based activities are completed, the student may be asked to complete a summative assessment which provides the teacher with an overall view of all that was learned or accomplished. Summative assessments can include PowerPoint presentations, models, science projects, or research reports.
District 15 supports Science for All Americans, Benchmarks for Science Literacy, National Science Education Standards, and the Illinois Learning Standards. District 15 supports science for all students by creating an inclusive environment. Modifications may be necessary to the physical environment, science lessons or assessments to support success in science for all learners.
District 15's science program is about engaging students in real-world activities, solving problems involving real-world data, integrating technology and reading, and helping students realize the importance and relevance that science has in every day life. If students understand science, they will ask questions, investigate and design experiments, research and gather data, analyze and interpret data, draw conclusions and solve problems, and in the end … understand life and the world around them. In essence, they will THINK!
Director of Curriculum & Instruction