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Suggested Citation:"Epilogue." 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 191
Suggested Citation:"Epilogue." 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 192

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Epilogue Nothing is in the mind that is notirst in the hand. Aristotle, 384-322 B.C. For more than a decade, the Na- tional Science Resources Center (NSRC) has been actively en- gagec! in elementary science education reform. During that time, we have been fortunate to develop meaningful partnerships with more than 200 school districts. From these partnerships have emerged a few "basic truths" about reform. Districts new to this work may Anti that these truths become guideposts as they set out to bring inquiry-centerec3 science to their elementary schools. · Close partnerships between the stakehoIclers involved in sci- ence education reform are preferable to the distant relations that were previously the norm. · Leaclers in science education reform must work in teams characterized by concern about elementary science educa- tion, consistency in the way they implement change, en cl commitment to seeing the program through to completion. · Strategic planning serves as the umbrella for all the elements of reform. It gives stakeholders a clear iclea of where-to go and the key things that must be clone to get there. This in- formation establishes how each individual's efforts fit the goals and provides a standard against which to measure how well the goals are being achieved. 191

Epilogue · It is not enough to design a good curriculum; the processes needed to implement that curriculum must be designed at the same time. It is crucial for districts to begin with some concrete initiatives and to demonstrate some successful results, even if they are small. Teachers must be provided with the materials neecled to teach inquiry-centered science. Furthermore, leaders must be provided with opportunities for continuous professional development. The publication of the National ScienceEducation Standards has given new direction to the elementary science education reform movement of the 198Os en c! 199Os. For the first time, school dis- tricts engaged in reform have clear-cut goals. The Standards delin- eates what children shouIcI know en cl be able to do in science from kindergarten through high school. The NSRC model for reform provides guidance on how to achieve these goals. Of particular im- portance is the development of a shared vision of teaching science through inquiry and the adoption of an implementation strategy that focuses on the five key elements of reform-curriculum de- sign, professional development, science materials support, assess- ment, and administrative and community support. Informed by the Standards and enlightened through experi- ence, we are ready to embark on the next clecade of reform. New issues have emerged, en c! we are face cI with new challenges. For ex- ample, although the NSRC and other organizations have reached several hundred school districts, our goal is to increase these num- bers significantly so that the majority of the nation's children have an opportunity to learn science through inquiry. We must also work to improve the quality of inquiry-centerecl science in districts that have already institutionalized reform. Charles Hardy Deputy Director National Science Resources Center 1Q'

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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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