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Foreword - Introduction: A Philosophical Context - K-12 Broad Goals for Science Education - References - Matrix


Science comprises our knowledge about the natural world and the processes by which that knowledge is acquired, synthesized, evaluated, and applied. Therefore, science education must emphasize hands-on exploration and direct experience with the natural world. Students should be engaged in the observation of these phenomena whenever possible. Science is, above all, a problem-solving activity that seeks answers to questions by collecting and analyzing data in an attempt to offer a rational explanation of naturally-occurring events. The knowledge that results from scientific problem solving is most useful when it is organized into concepts, generalizations, and unifying principles, which lead to further investigation of objects and events in the environment. Science is practiced in the context of human culture, and therefore, dynamic interactions occur among science, technology, and society. Each component-- inquiry and problem solving; scientific knowledge organized by unifying principles or themes; and science, technology and society-- is critically important to instruction in science.

Why does society need good science education?

Scientifically-literate citizens, equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to study and solve complex problems, are critical to sustaining and improving the quality of life on earth and for enhancing democratic societies and the global economy. The goal of science education is not only to produce scientists, although this is clearly seen as a need in our society, but also to prepare well rounded, clear thinking, scientifically literate citizens. Helping young people acquire the knowledge and skills they will need as productive adults in an increasingly technological society is the major purpose for science instruction. Can science education be a positive experience for students? All students should have the opportunity to achieve in science. However, national studies and reports highlight the under representation of females, members of minority groups, and persons with disabilities in undergraduate and graduate science programs, research, industry, and other scientific enterprises. These reports identify significant differences between the science learning experiences of women and men, among the varied ethnic groups, and among persons of various physical and mental abilities. These differences often prevent students from seriously considering many school and career options. The traditional views that science and mathematics are more appropriate for males than for females, or that students with certain disabilities cannot fully participate in science courses must be changed. One of the most powerful influences on students' achievement in any area is the consistent belief that they can be successful. Teachers are especially effective in promoting positive student attitudes concerning ability and achievement. Meaningful recognition from a caring teacher can spark interest, enthusiasm, and effort, thereby, motivating students to use their full ability. Effective science teaching instills a positive view of science, mathematics, and technology in young people, including such highly-regarded attributes as integrity, diligence, persistence, curiosity, open-mindedness, critical evaluation of alternatives, and imagination. We must constantly strive, through science education, to instill these attributes in all of our students. What skills does the expanding universe of scientific knowledge require of students? Science and the current body of scientific knowledge are not static, but are in a continual process of change in which ideas are routinely modified with new data. The knowledge and processes of science have evolved over many years, and we use this rich history regularly to construct our path to the future. Current science instruction falls short in preparing students to be competent problem solvers. Focus on the traditional basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic must be expanded to include communication, collaboration, scientific and technological literacy, and the ability to access and process information. Problem-solving skills include the abilities to recognize and define a problem, to generate and evaluate alternatives, to choose a course of action, and to make sound judgments based on real data. Are science and society responsible to each other? Science is a human activity through which problems and questions dealing with natural phenomena are identified and defined, and solutions proposed and tested. Basic scientific concepts are embodied in the everyday problems we face. Competence in science gives individuals confidence to respond intelligently to objects and events of nature, and to control some aspects of their personal and collective environment and destiny. Scientifically-literate persons will be able to respond to change, will know when, where, and how to formulate opinions, and will function effectively in an increasingly complex and technological world. Why should science be taught in a multidisciplinary manner? Systems, patterns, and change are examples of common themes inherent in the investigations made in all disciplines. Most ideas are not isolated, but are found in a context that transcends disciplinary boundaries. Knowledge that is connected and useful expands the understanding of an idea. The understanding of multifaceted problems is enhanced when explored from the perspectives of history, art, mathematics, language arts, and the social sciences. Technology pervades all of the disciplines and is an integral part of the total picture. Why should New Hampshire have a curriculum framework? Acquiring a common core of scientific knowledge and understanding, including a framework of organized conceptual information, will enable students to think through problems. Educators, undertaking the task of curriculum development and revision, are forced to make difficult decisions and identify the most important ideas in science. Educators must concentrate on the quality of understanding rather than the quantity of information learned.


NHEON is a collaborative project between the New Hampshire Department of Education and educators all across the state.

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