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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.
Page 1
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 2
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 3
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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Introduction r ~ . he National Science Education Standards, published in 1996 by the National Research Council, presents a strong case for the importance of scientific literacy for all Americans. The Standards emphasizes that "everyone needs to use scientific information to make choices that arise every day. Everyone needs to be able to engage intelligently in public dis- course and debate about important issues of science and technol- ogy. And everyone deserves to share in the excitement and per- sonal fulfillment that can come from understanding and learning about the natural world." Scientific literacy is also increasingly important in the work- place. More anct more jobs require that people be prepared to think critically, solve problems, and use technology effectively. Fur- thermore, we need a scientifically literate public if we are to com- pete successfully in the global marketplace. One proven way to achieve these goals is to begin to teach sci- ence in elementary school, as early as kindergarten. Through a particular approach to science education, called inquiry-centered sci- ence, children learn to ask questions, experiment, develop theo- ries, and communicate their ideas. This book outlines a model of a science education system that fosters the teaching of inquiry-centered science. The model, which is based on research and practice, consists of five elements: a re- search-based. inouirv-centered curriculum; professional develom 1 ~ meet; materials support; appropriate assessment strategies; and community and administrative support. These elements all work to- gether as a unified whole, yet each element is significant in itself and must be understood on its own terms. Therefore, the book not only explores each element but also describes how they work together. 1

Introduction To further illustrate the ideas put forth here, the book in- cludes a series of case studies that show how the model is being im- plemented in different school districts nationwide. The case stud- ies provide eviclence that by implementing the National Science Resources Center (NSRC) moclel for science education reform, school districts also go a long way toward implementing the rec- ommendations in the National Science Education Standards. Organization of Science for Al! Children This book is diviclecI into three parts. Part 1: Building a Foundation for Change explains the rationale for inquiry-centered science and provides some basic tools for planning for such a program. It includes the following four chapters: Chapter 1: The Value of Science Education Chapter 2: How Children Learn Chapter 3: Sharing the Vision of Exemplary Elementary Science Chapter 4: Planning for the New Elementary Science Program Chapter 1 opens with a (1iscussion about inquiry-centered el- ementary science and what the research says about its effective- ness. Chapter 2 explores how inquiry-centered science builcls on what we know about how children learn. Chapter 3 presents an overview of the live elements of an effective elementary science program, and Chapter 4 (discusses how school districts can begin the strategic planning process. Part 2: The Nuts and Bolts of Change explains how to imple- ment an inquiry-centered science program by focusing on the five elements of the NSRC model for science education reform. This section includes the following chapters: Chapter 5: Criteria for Selecting Inquiry-Centered Science Curriculum Materials Chapter 6: Professional Development for Inquiry-Centered Science Chapter 7: Establishing a Science Materials Support Center Chapter S: Assessment Strategies for Inquiry-Centered Science Chapter 9: Building Support for the Science Program 2

Introduction Science is for all students: First-grad~rs discover the wonders of insects during a science module on organisms. Part 3: Inquiry-Centered Science in Practice is a collection of eight case studies of efforts to implement the model of inquiry- centered science described in Part 2. The school districts and pro- grams profiled are Montgomery County Public Schools, Mont- gomery County, Maryland; Spokane School District X1, Spokane, Washington; East Baton Rouge Parish Public School System, East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana; Cupertino Union School District, Cupertino, California; Hands-On Activity Science Program, Huntsville, Alabama; Pasadena Unified School District, Pasadena, California; City Science (San Francisco Unified School District), San Francisco, California; and the Einstein Project, Green Bay Wisconsin. Each of these districts came to reform in a slightly different way. Some were self-motivated and began the reform process within their own school districts; other reform efforts were spearheaded by a corporate sponsor. Still other school districts worked with mem- bers of the scientific community through a partnership with an aca 3

Introduction clemic institution. Finally, some school districts joined together to form consortia, another effective way to implement change. Recommendations for further reacting are included at the end of each chapter. The appendixes provide additional re- sources. Appendix A describes professional associations and gov- ernment agencies involved in science education reform. Appendix B describes exemplary elementary science curriculum materials. Plow to Use Science for At! Children This book may be used by many members of a school district or community, including teachers, administrators, school board mem- bers, parents, and scientists. Therefore, readers may wish to focus on the sections of greatest interest. For example, a school board president, a concerned parent, or a PTA activist may choose to react Part ~ (Chapters T-4) carefully. It presents research data con- firming the effectiveness of inquiry-centereci science as well as other arguments supporting teaching in this way. This section can help you build a case to take to your school administration or com- munity members. Teachers and school administrators committed to inquiry- centered science will find Part 2 particularly useful. Chapters 5-9 explain how to implement an inquiry-centerecl science program. Important information about selecting curriculum materials, cre- ating opportunities for professional development, setting up and maintaining a materials support center, and developing new strate- gies for assessing student learning is inclucle(1 here. Everyone involved in education will find Part 3 helpful. The case studies explain how eight programs have implemented sci- ence education reform and explore some of the "ups and clowns" that school officials and community activists have experienced along the way. We hope that everyone who works with children and is inter- estec3 in their education will finch this book both useful en c! infor- mative. Furthermore, we hope that it will inspire educators to be- come engaged in implementing inquiry-centered elementary science programs in their school districts. 4

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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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