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Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Academy of Sciences. 1997. Science for All Children: A Guide to Improving Elementary Science Education in Your School District. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4964.
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Page 135
Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Academy of Sciences. 1997. Science for All Children: A Guide to Improving Elementary Science Education in Your School District. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4964.
×
Page 136
Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Academy of Sciences. 1997. Science for All Children: A Guide to Improving Elementary Science Education in Your School District. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4964.
×
Page 137

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Introduction In Parts 1 and 2, we described the rationale behind inquiry-centered science en cl the live elements that make up the National Science Resources Center's (NSRC) mode! for elementary science education reform at the district level. One question remains: Does this mocle! work? The answer to this question lies in Part 3: Inq~ury-Centered Science In Practice, which explores how the model for science ed- ucation reform is being implemented in communities throughout the country. We have selected eight programs that reflect the di- versity of science education reform efforts nationwide. These pro- grams are grouped uncler four categories. Programs Initiated by School Districts Montgomery County Public Schools, Rockville, MarylancI Spokane School District 81, Spokane, Washington Programs Involving Corporate Partnerships East Baton Rouge Parish Public School System in partnership with the Dow Chemical Company, Midland, Michigan ~ Cupertino Union School District in partnership with Hewlett- Packard Company, Palo Alto, California 135

Inquiry-Centered Science in Practice Programs Initiated Through Partnerships with University Scientists · Hands-on Science Program, Huntsville, Alabama, a consor tium of school districts in partnership with the University of Alabama at Huntsville · Pasaclena Unified School District Science Program, formerly Project SEED (Science for Early Educational Development), in partnership with the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California · City Science, a partnership between the University of Califor nia, San Francisco, and the San Francisco Unifiecl School Dis trict, San Francisco, California Programs Initiated by Consortia Serving Several School Districts · Einstein Project, Green Bay, Wisconsin These case studies illustrate several of the possible approach- es for communities interested in implementing inquiry-centered science programs. Representatives of most of these programs were participants in the NSRC's Elementary Science Leadership Insti- tute program, where they were introducecl to resources, such as exemplary curriculum materials and professional development moclels. In addition, participants were able to benefit from the ex- pertise of experienced science educators who hac3 successfully in- troduced inquiry-centerec3 elementary science into their school districts. These leadership experiences often proved to be turning points in the development of these programs. The case studies demonstrate some similarities among the programs. All share a commitment to the five critical elements of an effective elementary science program. Other themes, such as the importance of leadership, the role of scientists in re- form, and the contributions corporations can make, are also common threads from story to story. What varies are the pace of implementation and the relative emphasis given to particu- lar elements. 136

Introduction Each story ends with a section called "Lessons Learned." These points distill what the program staff have learned from their work thus far. Our hope is that communities just starting out will benefit from the experience of others and be encouraged to move forward with their own reform efforts. 137

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Remember the first time you planted a seed and watched it sprout? Or explored how a magnet attracted a nail? If these questions bring back memories of joy and wonder, then you understand the idea behind inquiry-based science--an approach to science education that challenges children to ask questions, solve problems, and develop scientific skills as well as gain knowledge. Inquiry-based science is based on research and experience, both of which confirm that children learn science best when they engage in hands-on science activities rather than read from a textbook.

The recent National Science Education Standards prepared by the National Research Council call for a revolution in science education. They stress that the science taught must be based on active inquiry and that science should become a core activity in every grade, starting in kindergarten. This easy-to-read and practical book shows how to bring about the changes recommended in the standards. It provides guidelines for planning and implementing an inquiry-based science program in any school district.

The book is divided into three parts. "Building a Foundation for Change," presents a rationale for inquiry-based science and describes how teaching through inquiry supports the way children naturally learn. It concludes with basic guidelines for planning a program.

School administrators, teachers, and parents will be especially interested in the second part, "The Nuts and Bolts of Change." This section describes the five building blocks of an elementary science program:

  • Community and administrative support.
  • A developmentally appropriate curriculum.
  • Opportunities for professional development.
  • Materials support.
  • Appropriate assessment tools.

Together, these five elements provide a working model of how to implement hands-on science.

The third part, "Inquiry-Centered Science in Practice," presents profiles of the successful inquiry-based science programs in districts nationwide. These profiles show how the principles of hands-on science can be adapted to different school settings.

If you want to improve the way science is taught in the elementary schools in your community, Science for All Children is an indispensable resource.

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