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

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posted by: Miriam Robin on August 18, 1999 at 12:24PM
subject: Questions for forum
This is from Miriam Robin, Middle School Science Supervisor
West Windsor-Plainsboro Middle Schools

1. Your Reviews: Instructional Materials for MS have consisted of a
variety of teacher-gathered activities. In 7th grade, we divide the year in
two parts, life science and physical science. In 8th grade, we devote the
school year to chemistry and earth science. Sixth grade is just joining us
and they do 4 kits from the NSF grant e=mc2. They are covering some earth
and physical science as well as a problem-solving module.
We do have Prentice-Hall texts as resource material, but most teachers use
it as reading for homework or just another source of info. We have used
various GEMS modules as well as SEPUP, computer simulation programs, and the
British SATIS series.
2. Identifying Needs: In order to extend the science initiative into the
middle grades, I believe teachrs will need to participate in high-quality
inquiry activities. Middle School teachers are subject area specialists who
may have a difficult time letting go of their traditional ways. Many are
already well committed to hands-on science, but have not made a transfer to
true inquiry. This needs to be modeled. Teachers will need a resource of
instructional materials that provide this information. We are attending a
LASER showcase in September which will feature new MS materials.
3. I believe, in light of NJ State Standards, new curriculum should be
predominantly in a "true" science mode. However, since we are organized
into interdisciplinary teams, some ID units would be most beneficial. Some
schools may look for a year-long program, while other may wish to adopt a
variety of modules. Having a text is not as important as having high
quality reading material for the students. Reading in the content areas is
an important experience for students before they leave middle school. I
cannot comment on the social/societal or historical context without seeing
examples of each. I think both would lend important dimensions to the study
of any science.
4. The primary barriers to implementing curricular change are time and
resources to train teachers. We need to justify the change and expose
teachers to the benefits for them and their students. We also need to give
them the opportunity to view appropriate materials. We also need to make
sure that technology is available and teachers are quite competent in using
computers and knowing how to integrate the internet and other technology
into the classroom. We have some money to buy new materials, but it depends
on many factors.
I hope this answers your questions somewhat. Miriam A. Robin

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