Starting science early

The sweet spot for science learning is kindergarten through fourth grade, argues an Education Week commentary.

Countries that routinely outperform others in education are teaching science before their students even learn to read and write, by using classroom activities that demonstrate scientific principles. All of these activities take advantage of three fundamental aspects of science: observation, inference, and verification. These concepts can be easily taught in primary school through carefully designed activities and a common language, namely, measurement. Children who understand that measurement is simply a comparison to a known standard have the necessary foundation for learning more-advanced science concepts in later years.

Primary teachers will need training in scientific concepts, the authors add.

“Broad and full of holes” is Common Core’s description of a framework for national science standards released by the National Research Council.

The NRC’s insistence on vague, big-picture thinking about science has created a document that is practically useless. To provide a “broad description” of science knowledge, the writers identify core ideas so general (e.g., “What is energy?”) that it’s possible to imagine any quality of standards, curriculum, and assessments (everything from excellent and clear to shoddy and vague) spinning off of this framework.  When it comes down to it, the NRC document’s just a list of stuff.  And maybe not all of the most important stuff, either.  We’ve caught wind of concern among some of the nation’s most prominent scientists that sections of the framework are not current with the latest science.  And by “latest” we mean knowledge that has already been around for a hundred years or more. 

This is just the first step toward science standards. It’s not part of the common core standards initiative — and Common Core isn’t the group pushing the common core standards.

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