An effective science education program supports student achievement of learning outcomes through:
All science outcomes and indicators emphasize one or more foundations of scientific literacy; these represent the "what" of the curriculum. The learning contexts represent different processes for engaging students in achieving curricular outcomes; they are the "how" of the curriculum.
Scientists construct models to support their explanations based on empirical evidence. Students need to engage in similar processes through authentic laboratory work. During their investigations, students must follow safe practices in the laboratory, as well as in regard to living things.
Technology serves to extend our powers of observation and to support the sharing of information. Students should use a variety of technology tools for data collection and analysis, for visualization and imaging and for communication and collaboration throughout the science curriculum.
To achieve the vision of scientific literacy outlined in this curriculum, students must increasingly become engaged in the planning, development and evaluation of their own learning activities. In the process, students should have the opportunity to work collaboratively with others, to initiate investigations, to communicate findings and to complete projects that demonstrate learning.
The K-12 goals of science education parallel the foundation statements for scientific literacy described in the Common Framework of Science Learning Outcomes K to 12 (CMEC, 1997). These four foundation statements delineate the critical aspects of students' scientific literacy. They reflect the wholeness and interconnectedness of learning and should be considered interrelated and mutually supportive.
This foundation is concerned with understanding the scope and character of science, its connections to technology and the social and environmental contexts in which it is developed. This foundation is the driving force of scientific literacy. Three major dimensions address this foundation.
Nature of Science and Technology
Science is a social and cultural activity anchored in a particular intellectual tradition. It is one way of knowing nature, based on curiosity, imagination, intuition, exploration, observation, replication, interpretation of evidence and consensus making over this evidence and its interpretation. More than most other ways of knowing nature, science excels at predicting what will happen next, based on its descriptions and explanations of natural and technological phenomena.
Science-based ideas are continually being tested, modified and improved as new ideas supersede existing ones. Technology, like science, is a creative human activity, but is concerned with solving practical problems that arise from human/social needs, particularly the need to adapt to the environment and to fuel a nation's economy. New products and processes are produced by research and development through inquiry and design.
Relationships between Science and Technology
Historically, the development of technology has been strongly linked to the development of science, with each making contributions to the other. While there are important relationships and interdependencies, there are also important differences. Where the focus of science is on the development and verification of knowledge; in technology, the focus is on the development of solutions, involving devices and systems that meet a given need within the constraints of the problem. The test of science knowledge is that it helps us explain, interpret and predict; the test of technology is that it works-it enables us to achieve a given purpose.
Social and Environmental Contexts of Science and Technology
The history of science shows that scientific development takes place within a social context that includes economic, political, social and cultural forces along with personal biases and the need for peer acceptance and recognition. Many examples can be used to show that cultural and intellectual traditions have influenced the focus and methodologies of science, and that science, in turn, has influenced the wider world of ideas. Today, societal and environmental needs and issues often drive research agendas. As technological solutions have emerged from previous research, many of the new technologies have given rise to complex social and environmental issues which are increasingly becoming part of the political agenda. The potential of science, technology and Indigenous knowledge to inform and empower decision making by individuals, communities and society is central to scientific literacy in a democratic society.
This foundation focuses on the subject matter of science including the theories, models, concepts and principles that are essential to an understanding of the natural and constructed world. For organizational purposes, this foundation is framed using widely accepted science disciplines.
Life science deals with the growth and interactions of life forms within their environments in ways that reflect the uniqueness, diversity, genetic continuity and changing nature of these life forms. Life science includes the study of topics such as ecosystems, biological diversity, organisms, cell biology, biochemistry, diseases, genetic engineering and biotechnology.
Physical science, which encompasses chemistry and physics, deals with matter, energy and forces. Matter has structure, and its components interact. Energy links matter to gravitational, electromagnetic and nuclear forces in the universe. The conservation laws of mass and energy, momentum and charge are addressed in physical science.
Earth and Space Science
Earth and space science brings local, global and universal perspectives to student knowledge. Earth, our home planet, exhibits form, structure and patterns of change, as do our surrounding solar system and the physical universe beyond. Earth and space science includes such fields of study as geology, hydrology, meteorology and astronomy.
Sources of Knowledge about Nature
A strong science program recognizes that modern science is not the only form of empirical knowledge about nature and aims to broaden student understanding of traditional and local knowledge systems. The dialogue between scientists and traditional knowledge holders has an extensive history and continues to grow as researchers and practitioners seek to better understand our complex world. The terms "traditional knowledge", "Indigenous knowledge" and "Traditional Ecological Knowledge" are used by practitioners worldwide when referencing local knowledge systems which are embedded within particular worldviews. This curriculum uses the term "Indigenous knowledge" and provides the following definitions to show parallels and distinctions between Indigenous knowledge and scientific knowledge.
Indigenous Knowledge Traditional [Indigenous] knowledge is a cumulative body of knowledge, know-how, practices and representations maintained and developed by peoples with extended histories of interaction with the natural environment. These sophisticated sets of understandings, interpretations and meanings are part and parcel of a cultural complex that encompasses language, naming and classification systems, resource use practices, ritual, spirituality and worldview" (International Council for Science, 2002, p. 3).
Scientific Knowledge Similar to Indigenous knowledge, scientific knowledge is a cumulative body of knowledge, know-how, practices and representations maintained and developed by people (scientists) with extended histories of interaction with the natural environment. These sophisticated sets of understandings, interpretations and meanings are part and parcel of cultural complexes that encompass language, naming and classification systems, resource use practices, ritual and worldview.
Fundamental Concepts - Linking Scientific Disciplines
A useful way to create linkages among science disciplines is through fundamental concepts that underlie and integrate different scientific disciplines. Fundamental concepts provide a context for explaining, organizing and connecting knowledge. Students deepen their understanding of these fundamental concepts and apply their understanding with increasing sophistication as they progress through the curriculum from Kindergarten to Grade 12. These fundamental concepts are identified in the following chart.
|Constancy and Change||The ideas of constancy and change underlie understanding of the natural and constructed world. Through observations, students learn that some characteristics of materials and systems remain constant over time whereas other characteristics change. These changes vary in rate, scale and pattern, including trends and cycles, and may be quantified using mathematics, particularly measurement.|
|Matter and Energy||Objects in the physical world are comprised of matter. Students examine materials to understand their properties and structures. The idea of energy provides a conceptual tool that brings together many understandings about natural phenomena, materials and the process of change. Energy, whether transmitted or transformed, is the driving force of both movement and change.|
|Similarity and Diversity||The ideas of similarity and diversity provide tools for organizing our experiences with the natural and constructed world. Beginning with informal experiences, students learn to recognize attributes of materials that help to make useful distinctions between one type of material and another, and between one event and another. Over time, students adopt accepted procedures and protocols for describing and classifying objects encountered, thus enabling students to share ideas with others and to reflect on their own experiences.|
|Systems and Interactions||An important way to understand and interpret the world is to think about the whole in terms of its parts and alternately about its parts in terms of how they relate to one another and to the whole. A system is an organized group of related objects or components that interact with one another so that the overall effect is much greater than that of the individual parts, even when these are considered together.|
|Sustainability and Stewardship||Sustainability refers to the ability to meet our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Stewardship refers to the personal responsibility to take action in order to participate in the responsible management of natural resources. By developing their understanding of ideas related to sustainability, students are able to take increasing responsibility for making choices that reflect those ideas.|
This foundation identifies the skills and processes students develop in answering questions, solving problems and making decisions. While these skills and processes are not unique to science, they play an important role in the development of scientific and technological understanding and in the application of acquired knowledge to new situations. Four broad skill areas are outlined in this foundation. Each area is developed further at each grade level with increasing scope and complexity of application.
Initiating and Planning
These are the processes of questioning, identifying problems and developing preliminary ideas and plans.
Performing and Recording
These are the skills and processes of carrying out a plan of action, which involves gathering evidence by observation and, in most cases, manipulating materials and equipment. Gathered evidence can be documented and recorded in a variety of formats.
Analyzing and Interpreting
These are the skills and processes of examining information and evidence, organizing and presenting data so that they can be interpreted, interpreting those data, evaluating the evidence and applying the results of that evaluation.
Communication and Teamwork
In science and technology, as in other areas, communication skills are essential whenever ideas are being developed, tested, interpreted, debated and accepted or rejected. Teamwork skills are also important because the development and application of ideas rely on collaborative processes both in science-related occupations and in learning.
This foundation focuses on encouraging students to develop attitudes, values and ethics that inform a responsible use of science and technology for the mutual benefit of self, society and the environment. This foundation identifies six categories in which science education can contribute to the development of scientific literacy. Both scientific and Indigenous knowledge systems place value on attitudes, values and ethics. These are more likely to be presented in a holistic manner in Indigenous knowledge systems.
Appreciation of Science
Students will be encouraged to critically and contextually appreciate the role and contributions of science and technology in their lives and to their community's culture; and to be aware of the limits of science and technology as well as their impact on economic, political, environmental, cultural and ethical events.
Interest in Science
Students will be encouraged to develop curiosity and continuing interest in the study of science at home, in school and in the community.
Inquiry in Science
Students will be encouraged to develop critical beliefs concerning the need for evidence and reasoned argument in the development of scientific knowledge.
Students will be encouraged to nurture competence in collaborative activity with classmates and others, inside and outside of the school.
Students will be encouraged to develop responsibility in the application of science and technology in relation to society and the natural environment.
Students engaged in science and technology activities will be expected to demonstrate a concern for safety and doing no harm to themselves or others, including plants and animals.
Each learning context is identified using a two or three letter code. One or more of these codes are listed under each outcome as a suggestion regarding which learning context or contexts most strongly support the intent of the outcome.
Learning contexts provide entry points into the curriculum that engage students in inquiry-based learning to achieve scientific literacy. Each learning context reflects a different, but overlapping, philosophical rationale for including science as a required area of study:
These learning contexts are not mutually exclusive; thus, well-designed instruction may incorporate more than one learning context. Students should experience learning through each learning context at each grade; it is not necessary, nor advisable, for each student to attempt to engage in learning through each learning context in each unit of study. Learning within a classroom may be structured to enable individuals or groups of students to achieve the same curricular outcomes through different learning contexts.
A choice of learning approaches can also be informed by recent well-established ideas on how and why students learn:
Scientific inquiry refers to the diverse ways in which scientists study the natural world and propose explanations based on the evidence derived from their work.
(NRC,1996, p. 23)
Inquiry is a defining feature of the scientific way of knowing nature. Scientific inquiry requires identification of assumptions, use of critical and logical thinking, and consideration of alternative explanations.
Scientific inquiry is a multifaceted activity that involves:
By participating in a variety of inquiry experiences that vary in the amount of student self-direction, students develop competencies necessary to conduct inquiries of their own - a key element to scientific literacy.
Technological design is a distinctive process with a number of defined characteristics; it is purposeful; it is based on certain requirements; it is systematic; it is iterative; it is creative; and there are many possible solutions.
(International Technology Education Association, 2000, p. 91)
The essence of the technological problem solving learning context is that students seek answers to practical problems. This process is based on addressing human and social needs and is typically addressed through an iterative design-action process that involves steps such as:
By participating in a variety of technological and environmental problem-solving activities, students develop capacities to analyze and resolve authentic problems in the natural and constructed world.
To engage with science and technology toward practical ends, people must be able to critically assess the information they come across and critically evaluate the trustworthiness of the information source.
(Aikenhead, 2006 p. 2)
Scientific knowledge can be related to understanding the relationships among science, technology, society and the environment. Students must also consider values or ethics, however, when addressing a question or issue. STSE decision making involves steps such as:
Students may engage with STSE issues through research projects, student-designed laboratory investigations, case studies, role playing, debates, deliberative dialogues and action projects.
For First Nations people, the purpose of learning is to develop the skills, knowledge, values and wisdom needed to honour and protect the natural world and ensure the long-term sustainability of life.
(Canadian Council on Learning, 2007, p. 18)
Students should recognize and respect that all cultures develop knowledge systems to describe and explain nature. Two knowledge systems which are emphasized in this curriculum are First Nations and Métis cultures (Indigenous knowledge) and Euro-Canadian cultures (science). In their own way, both of these knowledge systems convey an understanding of the natural and constructed worlds, and they create or borrow from other cultures' technologies to resolve practical problems. Both knowledge systems are systematic, rational, empirical, dynamically changeable and culturally specific.
Cultural features of science are, in part, conveyed through the other three learning contexts and when addressing the nature of science. Cultural perspectives on science can also be taught in activities that explicitly explore Indigenous knowledge or knowledge from other cultures.
For the Métis people, learning is understood as a process of discovering the skills, knowledge and wisdom needed to live in harmony with the Creator and creation, a way of being that is expressed as the Sacred Act of Living a Good Life.
(Canadian Council on Learning, 2007, p. 22)
Addressing cultural perspectives in science involves:
By engaging in explorations of cultural perspectives, scientifically literate students begin to appreciate the worldviews and belief systems fundamental to science and to Indigenous knowledge.
The terms "law", "theory" and "hypothesis" have special meaning in science.
Science is a way of understanding the natural world using internally consistent methods and principles that are well-described and understood by the scientific community. The principles and theories of science have been established through repeated experimentation and observation and have been refereed through peer review before general acceptance by the scientific community. Acceptance of a theory does not imply unchanging belief in a theory, or denote dogma. Instead, as new data become available, previous scientific explanations are revised and improved, or rejected and replaced. There is a progression from a hypothesis to a theory using testable, scientific laws. Many hypotheses are tested to generate a theory. Only a few scientific facts are considered laws (e.g., the law of conservation of mass and Newton's laws of motion).
Scientists use the terms "law", "theory" and "hypothesis" to describe various types of scientific explanations about phenomena in the natural and constructed world. These meanings differ from common usage of the same terms:
Scientific models are constructed to represent and explain certain aspects of physical phenomenon. Models are never exact replicas of real phenomena; rather, models are simplified versions of reality, constructed in order to facilitate study of complex systems such as the atom, climate change and biogeochemical cycles. Models may be physical, mental, mathematical or contain a combination of these elements. Models are complex constructions that consist of conceptual objects and processes in which the objects participate or interact. Scientists spend considerable time and effort building and testing models to further understanding of the natural world.
When engaging in the processes of science, students are constantly building and testing their own models of understanding of the natural world. Students may need help in learning how to identify and articulate their own models of natural phenomena. Activities that involve reflection and metacognition are particularly useful in this regard. Students should be able to identify the features of the natural phenomena their models represent or explain. Just as importantly, students should identify which features are not represented or explained by their models. Students should determine the usefulness of their model by judging whether the model helps in understanding the underlying concepts or processes. Ultimately, students realize that different models of the same phenomena may be needed in order to investigate or understand different aspects of the phenomena.
Ideally, laboratory work should help students to understand the relationship between evidence and theory, develop critical thinking and problem- solving skills, as well as develop acceptable scientific attitudes.
(Di Giuseppe, 2007, p. 54)
Laboratory work is often at the centre of scientific research; as such, it should also be an integral component of school science. The National Research Council (2006, p. 3) defines a school laboratory investigation as an experience in the laboratory, the classroom or the field that provides students with opportunities to interact directly with natural phenomena or with data collected by others using tools, materials, data collection techniques and models. Laboratory experiences should be designed so that all students - including students with academic and physical challenges - are able to authentically participate in and benefit from those experiences.
Laboratory activities help students develop scientific and technological skills and processes including:
Laboratory investigations also help students understand the nature of science; specifically that theories and laws must be consistent with observations. Similarly, student-centered laboratory investigations help to emphasize the need for curiosity and inquisitiveness as part of the scientific endeavour. The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) position statement The Integral Role of Laboratory Investigations in Science Instruction (2007) provides further information about laboratory investigations.
A strong science program includes a variety of individual, small- and large-group laboratory experiences for students. Most importantly, the laboratory experience needs to go beyond conducting confirmatory "cook-book" experiments. Similarly, computer simulations and teacher demonstrations are valuable but should not serve as substitutions for hands-on student laboratory activities.
Assessment and evaluation of student performance must reflect the nature of the laboratory experience by addressing scientific and technological skills. As such, the results of student investigations and experiments do not always need to be written up using formal laboratory reports. Teachers may consider alternative formats such as narrative lab reports for some investigations. The narrative lab report enables students to tell the story of their process and findings by addressing four questions:
Student responses to these questions may be written in an essay format or point form rather than using the structured headings of Purpose, Procedure, Hypothesis, Data, Analysis and Conclusion typically associated with a formal lab report. For some investigations, teachers may decide it is sufficient for students to write a paragraph describing the significance of their findings.
Safety cannot be mandated solely by rule of law, teacher command, or school regulation. Safety and safe practice are an attitude.
Safety in the classroom is of paramount importance. Other components of education (e.g., resources, teaching strategies and facilities) attain their maximum utility only in a safe classroom. To create a safe classroom requires that a teacher be informed, aware and proactive and that the students listen, think and respond appropriately.
Safe practice in the laboratory is the joint responsibility of the teacher and students. The teacher's responsibility is to provide a safe environment and to ensure the students are aware of safe practice. The students' responsibility is to act intelligently based on the advice which is given and which is available in various resources.
Teachers should be aware of Safety in the K-12 Science Classroom (Worksafe Saskatchewan, 2013). This resource supports planning and safe learning by providing information on safety legislation and standards. It provides examples of common chemical, physical and biological hazards and shows how to protect against, minimize and eliminate these hazards.
Texley, Kwan, and Summers (2004) suggest that teachers, as professionals, consider four Ps of safety: prepare, plan, prevent and protect. The following points are adapted from those guidelines and provide a starting point for thinking about safety in the science classroom:
The definition of safety includes consideration of the well-being of all components of the biosphere, such as plants, animals, earth, air and water. From knowing what wild flowers can be picked to considering the disposal of toxic wastes from chemistry laboratories, the safety of our world and our future depends on our actions and teaching in science classes. It is important that students practise ethical, responsible behaviours when caring for and experimenting with live animals. For further information, refer to the NSTA position statement Responsible Use of Live Animals and Dissection in the Science Classroom (2008).
WHMIS regulations govern storage and handling practices of chemicals in schools.
The Chemical Hazard Information Table in Safety in the K-12 Science Classroom (Worksafe Saskatchewan, 2013) provides detailed information including appropriateness for school use, hazard ratings, WHMIS class, storage class and disposal methods for hundreds of chemicals.
Safety in the science classroom includes the storage, use and disposal of chemicals. The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) regulations (WHMIS 1998 and WHMIS 2015) under the Hazardous Products Act and the Hazardous Product Regulations govern storage and handling practices of chemicals in schools. All school divisions must comply with the provisions of these regulations. Chemicals should be stored in a safe location according to chemical class, not just alphabetically. Appropriate cautionary labels must be placed on all chemical containers and all school division employees using hazardous substances should have access to appropriate Materials Safety Data Sheets (WHMIS 1998) or Safety Data Sheets (WHMIS 2015). Under provincial WHMIS regulations, all employees involved in handling hazardous substances must receive training by their employer. Teachers who have not been informed about or trained in this program should contact their director of education. Further information related to WHMIS is available through Health Canada and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety.
Technology should be used to support learning in science when it:
(Flick & Bell, 2000)
Technology-based resources are essential for instruction in the science classroom. Technology is intended to extend our capabilities and, therefore, is one part of the teaching toolkit. Individual, small group or class reflection and discussions are required to connect the work with technology to the conceptual development, understandings and activities of the students. Choices to use technology, and choices of which technologies to use, should be based on sound pedagogical practices, especially those which support student inquiry. These technologies include computer technologies as described below and non-computer based technologies.
Some recommended examples of using computer technologies to support teaching and learning in science include:
Data Collection and Analysis
Visualization and Imaging
Communication and Collaboration