Why Teach Science?

In the modern world, some knowledge of science is essential for everyone. It is the opinion of this committee that science should be as nonnegotiable a part of basic education as are language arts and mathematics. It is important to teach science because of the following:

  1. Science is a significant part of human culture and represents one of the pinnacles of human thinking capacity.

  2. It provides a laboratory of common experience for development of language, logic, and problem-solving skills in the classroom.

  3. A democracy demands that its citizens make personal and community decisions about issues in which scientific information plays a fundamental role, and they hence need a knowledge of science as well as an understanding of scientific methodology.

  4. For some students, it will become a lifelong vocation or avocation.

  5. The nation is dependent on the technical and scientific abilities of its citizens for its economic competitiveness and national needs.

What Should Be the Goals of Elementary and Middle School Science?

To quote Albert Einstein, the goal of education is “to produce independently thinking and acting individuals.” The eventual goal of science education is to produce individuals capable of understanding and evaluating information that is, or purports to be, scientific in nature and of making decisions that incorporate that information appropriately, and, furthermore, to produce a sufficient number and diversity of skilled and motivated future scientists, engineers, and other science-based professionals.

The science curriculum in the elementary grades, like that for other subject areas, should be designed for all students to develop critical basic knowledge and basic skills, interests, and habits of mind that will lead to productive efforts to learn and understand the subject more deeply in later grades. If this is done well, then all five of the reasons to teach science will be well served. It is not necessary in these grades to distinguish between those who will eventually become scientists and those who will chiefly use their knowledge of science in making personal and societal choices. A good elementary science program will provide the basis for either path in later life.

The specific content of elementary school science has been outlined in multiple documents, including the National Science Education Standards,

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