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

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posted by: Joni Falk on August 29, 1999 at 0:25AM
subject: From: Rick Vanosdall,Mesa Public Schools
From: Rick Vanosdall, MSI Science Specialist (LSC), Mesa Public Schools
Roger Spratt, Science Specialist, Mesa Public Schools

What instructional materials have you used for middle school science?

Mesa Public Schools currently uses a combination of district developed,
BSCS Middle School Science & Technology, Science Plus, Science Interactions,
and Castle Electricity Kits from PASCO Scientific [Units 1 & 2 in 7th grade,
and Units 3 & 4 in 8th grade].


This approach provides classroom teachers at each of our 12 junior high
schools with the opportunity to customize the district wide curriculum to
fit the needs of their specific student population within parameters. This
results in improved teacher interest because they have control over
purchasing equipment and materials to best meet their local needs. The
teacher can purchase the things of science rather than the books of science,
and students can learn how to do science rather than only learn about


There is no "real" way to check to verify that the curriculum is delivered
as designed other than some end of course district testing.

In considering a new initiative for curriculum development, what do
teachers and admin want/need in instructional materials to provide high
quality science education to their students?
Anytime change is involved, those involved need the freedom to make
mistakes. Some of these mistakes involve decisions to purchase specific
kits or other curricular materials. In order to minimize the impact of
these mistakes a communication network between schools is needed. When a
school tries a new kit, or piece of curricular material, their evaluation
may provide valuable insight for other schools. The positive side of the
local control method is that mistakes are smaller, and usually have a lesser
negative impact on the schools ability to help students learn.

Teachers need to see and experience what good science teaching looks like,
and feels like.

Teachers may require content background support.

Teachers must be risk takers, or a least some of them must willing to
receive and give staff development opportunities.

Should new curricula materials for middle school be in the earth, life,
physical science, or multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary?

The curricula materials should support an intra-disciplinary plan in
science, and spiral. That is to say, the curriculum should continually
cycle through the principle concepts, and progress to higher and higher
levels of thinking.
Modular to year long
Modular, to make sure the intra-disciplinary component is supported and
Integrated across subject domains
Tests to match activities like high school
Would you rec. social/societal context, historical context, or traditional
We incorporate both the social/societal context, and the historical

What are the primary barriers to implementing such a curriculum (teacher
certification/training, in-service, pre-service, facilities, and
The teachers are trusted to make decisions. Therefore, many of them may
need some training in making the types of team decisions at the school

In Arizona, teachers are certified for elementary (K-8) or content (grades
7-12). Therefore, we have a number of teachers in grades 7 and 8 working
together that have different certification/training. This diversity of
teacher backgrounds in middle school may require some sensitivity and
support. Elementary teachers are traditionally trained to focus on the
student and provide an interdisciplinary approach, while the secondary
teacher training focuses mainly on content. Many secondary teachers need
models for intra/inter-disciplinary teaching.

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