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Discussion: Science Instructional Materials for Middle School: Informing Future Initiatives

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posted by: Gail Paulin on August 12, 1999 at 11:32PM
subject: Response from Gail Paulin-DESERT project
Response from Gail Paulin DESERT Project in Tucson AZ
Please note, what is suggested here includes personal opinions. We have
dialogued with colleagues in district and around the country, the solution
to MS sceince curriculum seems unclear. We are anxious to learn what has
worked in MS. We will continue to pilot materials in hopes of developing
a comprehensive MS program MS students have great untapped potential which
appropriate, inquiry based curriculum can nurture. The variability of MS
teacher backgrounds creates programmatic
1. YOUR REVIEWS: What instructional materials have you used for middle
school science?
We are currently using Science Plus in 6-8 green ,red and blue levels
respectively , CHEM (in 6th grade) and selected GEMS 6-8.There are also
many teacher developed units which vary in quality from excellent to
While there is a district wide adoption, there is very little in place to
enforce universal usage. In addition, most of our adopted materials we
chosen in 1992, so there was very little on the market at that time which
lives up to what standards based, inquiry science should be. We are in the
process of adopting some new materials so this discussion is very timely.
We hope to learn what success others have had with particular pieces.

>What is your take on their strengths and weaknesses?
CHEM has been well supported by district pd (study groups and teacher
mentors) and is implemented in most schools. The emphasis on real life
problems appropriate for this age student is appealing Science Plus
addresses the inquiry standard adequately, but content information is very
weak. Teachers who use the journaling feature, like it. Many teachers do
not feel SP is an adequate resource for the courses they teach. It was not
intended to be such, but in absence of other adopted resources, they are
unhappy that there is a lack of content resource. We did provide
nonconsumable materials to support at the time of adoption, they have been
refreshed several times since, but this system does not adequately support
programs at sites where little site budget is allocated for science. At
present, teachers are asked to select at least 4 of the 8 units each year in
Green Red and Blue to present at their grade level.
We now have a draft of a scope and sequence aligned with our state
standards that uses SP, GEMS and CHEM. All MS teachers will be asked to
review this draft and suggest
modifications and identify gaps where new curriculum materials are needed.
Our current plan is to look at implementation of new materials around a
content area or major concept and adopt materials which will support that
content development in 6-8.
We have been piloting FOSS MS modules the past two years, they were well
received, but it remains unclear at this time if a kit based program will
be the answer for MS. COSTS will be a factor if modules are housed at every
school and at this time, there are insufficient kits available to make a
year long program at any grade level.

GEMS units were adopted in 1992. They are not centrally supported by
materials, guides are provided at each school
>>2. IDENTIFYING NEEDS: In considering a new initiative for curriculum
development, what do you think teachers and administrators want/need in
instructional materials to provide high-quality science education to their
Materials clearly aligned with big ideas, connections from year to year.
Guidance for making student investigations more inquiry based. Suggestions
for alternative assessment strategies. Adaptable for a variety of lab
settings. Links to technology, both computer and science instrumentation,
content resources suggested and in some cases included.
materials for middle school be in earth, life, and physical science, or
multidisciplinary, or interdisciplinary?
RESPONSE: There will be no one model that fits all middle schools.
Exemplary materials will support the connection of big ideas, and major
scientific concepts across the science fields and will help students
integrate this understanding in interdisciplinary application .
>Should they be all modular or year long?
RESPONSE: >Given the heterogeneity of our MS teachers and students, I
question whether any year long program would be fully implemented. Modular
materials will accommodate more MS settings. If these can be constructed to
link in several ways to form a year long curriculum that would be ideal for
* Should they be integrated across subject domains?
>This will only work in some middle schools. In our district alone of the
20 MS, some have ITOs at one grade or more, but some have none.
* Should they have texts that go along with the activities, as the high
school programs have?
RESPONSE: They may not need a text per say, but they do need print
resources which are age appropriate. They need to learn how to use and
interpret this type of information as part of an investigative process.
* Would you recommend a social/societal context, a historical context, or a
traditional one?
RESPONSE: >Making science meaningful to students of this age is critical.
variety of contexts might work, but the materials must be engaging!
4. BARRIERS: What are the primary barriers to implementing such a
curriculum (teacher certification/training, facilities, materials)?
RESPONSE: yes all of these are barriers. We have a high turnover rate for
MS science teachers and their backgrounds vary greatly, so one size all PD
does not work. OUR Sceince materials center does not currently support MS
science with materials, since our MS all have labs which house year long
classes 6,7,8.
* We would like the school to house its own materials, but there have
problems at sites where no one takes responsibility for organizing
andordering replacements of these materials.

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