21st century science, geography

Partnership for 21st Century Skills has come out with science and geography road maps that show how to integrate “new” skills into old subjects. Last year’s maps covered English Language Arts and social studies. Math is in the works.

The science and geography maps provide educators with teacher-created models of how 21st century skills can be infused into instruction and highlight the critical connections between science, geography and 21st century skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and communication.

There’s no content, complains Common Core. Instead, P21 explains that learning skills is more important than “acquiring information” and “assessing to learn what students do not know.” 

So, under P21’s plan, students will learn less and their knowledge gaps will go undetected. 

Common Core also wonders how students can learn from the suggested activities if they haven’t acquired any information.

The fourth-grade science activity is light on science:

 Students in the class role-play citizens in a town meeting where members of the community express different points of view about a local issue, such as the location of a new school, building a bypass for traffic, or a re-zoning of downtown to be “pedestrian only” without vehicles, etc.

Eighth-grade science focuses on how a citizen evalutes scientific claims, not how to be a scientist. Most of us will be, at best, informed citizens, but what about the students who want to do science?

Students view video samples from a variety of sources of people speaking about a science-related topic (e.g., news reporters, news interviews of science experts, video podcasts of college lectures, segments from public television documentaries, or student-made videos of parents and professionals in their community). Students rate the videos on the degree to which the person sounded scientific…

A proposed 12th-grade geography activity asks students to conduct a survey to ”test the law of retail gravitation (i.e., the number of visits a resident makes to competing shopping centers is inversely proportional to the distances between residence and center and proportional to the size of the center).” That is, people will travel longer distances to visit a large shopping center with many choices than to go to a small shopping center.

Given the percentage of young Americans who can’t find Iraq and Iran on a map — much less tell the difference between them — mastery of retail geography seems a bit esoteric.

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