Classroom teachers and school administrators often ask the National Science Resources Center (NSRC), which is sponsored jointly by the Smithsonian Institution and the National Academy of Sciences, for guidance in identifying effective science curriculum materials at the middle school level. Resources for Teaching Middle School Science, the second in the NSRC's series of resource guides, is a compendium of useful information that can provide such guidance. The volume reviews curriculum materials—hands-on, inquiry-centered materials that align with the National Science Education Standards—and sources of assistance for teaching middle school science.
The central focus of Resources for Teaching Middle School Science is to provide guidance in identifying and evaluating middle school science curriculum materials and resources. The volume addresses this objective in the following ways:
It identifies a broad spectrum of middle school science curriculum materials, published from about 1987 to 1998, that are pedagogically and scientifically sound and that are in alignment with the National Science Education Standards.
It provides descriptive annotations for these materials, totaling about 400 individual books and units. These annotations include the recommended grade level, a description of major concepts and activities presented in the material, and bibliographic and ordering information. For some categories of materials, a series or program overview is also included, as is a reading level and a key to the National Science Education Standards that are addressed in the materials.
The appendixes include the comprehensive set of criteria that were used by scientists and teachers in evaluating middle school materials for this volume. These evaluation criteria emphasize a hands-on, inquiry-centered approach to science education, addressing the goals and principles defined in the National Science Education Standards. The criteria can be used by science curriculum adoption committees at the local, state, or regional levels.
The appendixes also include excerpts from the National Science Education Standards—specifically, the content standards for grades five through eight.
The guide describes a variety of reference works of particular relevance for middle school science teachers. It also identifies sources of authoritative reviews of computer software and multimedia programs that can help teachers keep abreast of this fast-moving field.
The guide includes information about 700 facilities and organizations throughout the United States that offer programs and resources to enhance and support hands-on middle school science. Several facilities in Canada are also included.
While the materials and resources listed here can be used to improve an existing program or to design a complete curriculum, it should be emphasized that the guide is not a recipe for a middle school science program. Neither the National Science Education Standards nor this guide was designed to prescribe a curriculum. Ultimately, it is up to teachers, schools, and local entities to select the particular materials that best fit their needs.
The curriculum materials annotated in the guide have not been ranked or assigned ratings. They have all achieved the general objectives set by the evaluation criteria. Their inclusion indicates that scientists and teachers have judged them to be effective materials. Beyond that, each item is unique and accomplishes its learning objectives in its own individual fashion. Thus, ranking could be misleading. What might be considered very useful in one classroom might be less appropriate elsewhere because of different needs and circumstances. The full array of materials presented here provides sufficient diversity to enable teachers and schools to select what best suits their own needs.
Contents of the Guide
Resources for Teaching Middle School Science is organized in three major parts—
Part 2, "Middle School Science Curriculum Materials,"
Part 3, "Reference Materials,"
Part 4, "Ancillary Resources."
An overview sets the stage for each part, describing and discussing the types, sources, and organization of the information presented. Following each overview are individual chapters containing annotations.
A boxed "nuts-and-bolts" section in each chapter gives detailed information about the annotations.
Part 2, "Middle School Science Curriculum Materials," includes six chapters. The first five contain annotations to curriculum materials, arranged by scientific discipline or field. These six chapters are—
Chapter 1, "Physical Science,"
Chapter 2, "Life Science,"
Chapter 3, "Environmental Science,"
Chapter 4, "Earth and Space Science,"
Chapter 5, "Multidisciplinary and Applied Science,"
Chapter 6, "Sources of Information on Educational Software and Multimedia Programs."
In the first five chapters, the annotations are subdivided in the following categories: Core Materials, Supplementary Units, and Science Activity Books. These categories are described in the Part 2 "Overview."
Part 3, "Reference Materials," includes three chapters—
Chapter 7, "Books on Teaching Science,"
Chapter 8, "Science Book Lists and Resource Guides,"
Chapter 9, "Periodicals."
Chapter 7 focuses on reference materials that offer guidance in learning theory and pedagogical techniques specifically for the middle school teacher. Chapter 8 annotates directories and other sourcebooks, including guides to materials and to science trade books for students. Chapter 9 offers a carefully chosen collection of periodical titles for teachers and students. It includes a recommended grade level for each student publication.
Part 4, "Ancillary Resources," includes two chapters—
Chapter 10, "Museums and Other Places to Visit,"
Chapter 11, "Professional Associations and U.S. Government Organizations."
Chapter 10 presents a wealth of information for the enrichment of middle school science education. The two large subsections in the chapter identify some 600 facilities throughout the United States and several in Canada to which middle school teachers can take their students for hands-on, inquiry-centered science experiences.
Chapter 11 then highlights more than 100 institutions, such as federal government organizations and professional societies, that are engaged in active efforts to provide information, services, or materials for the enhancement of middle school science teaching and learning.
Resources for Teaching Middle School Science also contains four appendixes. Appendix A, "Publishers and Suppliers," provides addresses and contact information for obtaining the curriculum and reference materials annotated in the chapters.
Appendix B, "NSRC Evaluation Criteria for Curriculum Materials," briefly discusses how the middle school criteria were developed, and indicates that they may be used by school district science curriculum adoption committees. The criteria are reproduced in the appendix in a format appropriate for school district use.
Appendix C, "National Science Education Standards: Content Standards for Levels 5-8," contains material reprinted from the National Science Education Standards for the convenience of readers. A brief introduction discusses the standards and explains how they relate to the other information contained in the guide.
Appendix D, "Overviews of Core and Supplementary Programs with Titles Annotated in This Guide," lists, by program, the individual titles annotated in the sections "Core Materials" and "Supplementary Units" in the five curriculum chapters. A brief description of each science program is also provided.
An extensive set of indexes provides access to the resources annotated in the guide. Title, name, and subject indexes are included, as well as special indexes that focus on particular aspects of the curriculum materials—for example, on the core and supplementary materials according to the content standards they address. Two indexes help readers locate materials at a specific grade level in a specific area of science. Another index covers the major topics addressed in the curriculum materials.
What Is Not Included in the Guide
Several kinds of teaching resources are not reviewed in Resources for Teaching Middle School Science—for example, computer software and audiovisual materials (such as films, videotapes, and videodiscs). Instead, the guide concentrates on print curriculum materials, although it does indicate when software and audiovisuals are components of a program. For information on science computer software and audiovisual materials—which can play an important role in the science classroom and can be integrated with print materials and kits to enrich science teaching—readers are referred to Chapter 6, "Sources of Information on Educational Software and Multimedia Programs."
This guide also does not attempt to review the vast number of science trade books that can be used to enrich students' knowledge and understanding. Many teachers use such books as an integral part of their science curriculum, and the NSRC urges teachers to supplement hands-on activities in the classroom with extensive reading of science trade books. For sources of current information on science trade books, readers are referred to Chapter 8, "Science Book Lists and Resource Guides," and Chapter 9, "Periodicals."