These investigations led to greater understanding of their schoolyard and of the ways that biologists and botanists understand the world (Strands 1 and 3).

While different classroom activities will emphasize different strands at different times, the goal is to try to bring all four strands into play on a regular basis.

Science as Practice: Doing and Learning Together

Throughout this book, we talk about “scientific practices” and refer to the kind of teaching that integrates the four strands as “science as practice.” Why not use the term “inquiry” instead? Science as practice involves doing something and learning something in such a way that the doing and the learning cannot really be separated. Thus, “practice,” as used in this book, encompasses several of the different dictionary definitions of the term. It refers to doing something repeatedly in order to become proficient (as in practicing the trumpet). It refers to learning something so thoroughly that it becomes second nature (as in practicing thrift). And it refers to using one’s knowledge to meet an objective (as in practicing law or practicing teaching).

A particularly important form of scientific practice is scientific inquiry. The term “inquiry” has come to have different meanings as the concept has been implemented in curriculum frameworks, textbooks, and individual classrooms in recent years. To reflect this diversity and to broaden the discussion of effective science teaching and learning, the Committee on Science Learning, Kindergarten Through Eighth Grade chose to emphasize scientific practices rather than the specific practice of inquiry. This decision has several benefits. What we say about scientific practice applies to inquiry as well as to many other activities that take place in science classrooms. Focusing on practices also places inquiry in a broader context that can reveal when and why inquiry is effective.

When students engage in scientific practice they are embedded in a social framework, they use the discourse of science, and they work with scientific representations and tools. In this way, conceptual understanding of natural systems is linked to the ability to develop or evaluate knowledge claims, carry out empirical investigations, and develop explanations.

This perspective is a far better characterization of what constitutes science and effective science instruction than the common tendency to teach content and process separately. When students engage in science as practice, they develop

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