Four Key Strands in K-8 Science Education

Ready, Set, Science! describes four key strands to science education at the elementary level:

  • Understanding Scientific Explanations: This strand involves learning the facts, concepts, principles, laws, theories, and models of science. However, it does so in a way that focuses on concepts and the links between them, rather than discrete facts. “To be proficient in science,” the report argues, “students need to know, use, and interpret scientific explanations of the natural world. They must understand interrelations among central scientific concepts and use them to build and critique scientific arguments.”

  • Generating Scientific Evidence: This strand entails generating and evaluating evidence to build and refine models and explanations, design and analyze investigations, and construct and defend arguments. This strand also involves mastering the conceptual, mathematical, physical, and computational tools that are needed to construct and evaluate claims.

  • Reflecting on Science Knowledge: Proficient science learners understand that scientific knowledge builds on itself and can be revised over time. Students recognize that predictions or explanations can be revised on the basis of seeing new evidence, learning new facts, or developing a new model.

  • Participating Productively in Science: Science is a social enterprise. Proficiency entails participation in a scientific community—at this level, the classroom—and mastery of productive ways to present scientific information and arguments and work with their peers in carrying out investigations.

In this model, science learning can be based on the way real scientists do science, and content and process interact as students move toward proficiency.

SOURCE: National Research Council. 2007. Ready, Set, Science! Putting Research to Work in K-8 Science Classrooms. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

  • Social Sciences: Theoretical understanding, ability to organize information to test and refine a theory.

With some varying degree by field, the additional skills needed for STEM success include:

  • Persistence;

  • Reading, writing, and communication;

  • Basic mathematical skills, including the ability to do word problems;

  • Ability to analyze and interpret statistical data;

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