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

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posted by: Mack McCary on August 30, 1999 at 9:52AM
subject: materials review, implementation barriers
> 1. YOUR REVIEWS: What instructional materials have
> you used for middle
> school science? What is your take on their strengths
> and weaknesses?

Several years ago, we became involved with the GLOBE
project as part of a Goals 2000 regional
collaboration. We found GLOBE after looking for
science materials which would give students the
opportunity of applying math and science skills &
concepts in a real world setting. GLOBE trains
teachers in scientific protocols for collecting
environmental data, which students then post to the
Internet. We have used it from elementary thru high
school. At middle school students are involved in
monitoring weather and water quality. It has been
enthusiastically received by many of our middls school
science teachers, and seems to have really helped
students learn to apply data analysis and statistics
to scientific data. It has also helped develop a very
strong & committed cadre of teacher leaders, who also
provide district leadership in science through the
science council.

> 4. BARRIERS: What are the primary barriers to
> implementing such a
> curriculum (teacher certification/training,
> facilities, materials)?

Tho we have not yet implemented middle school science
curriculum (on tap for this coming year), we have been
implemented an inquiry based math reform series,
Connected Math. The major lesson we learned in this 7
year project is that it isn't the materials, but the
culture of teacher reflection on inquiry which makes
all the difference in the world. We found that
teachers honestly thought they were implementing the
curriculum when they used the materials, even tho
observation confirmed that most of them accidentally
turned high level challenges into traditional
teacher-directed instruction. We used a consultant to
model how to reflect on lessons using inquiry as a
framework. This gradually led to a commitment to
regular weekly meetings among the middle school math
department which focused on using teacher journals,
videotaped lessons and collaborative reflection. We
have had tremendous results..over 80% of 7th graders
at or above grade level, in a district with 50%
poverty. Gains at 6 & 8 are impressive but not as
strong, but have been achieved despite large teacher
turnover. The process has also built extremely strong
teacher-leaders who take the responsibility for
training new teachers as will as continuing the
culture of reflection on inquiry.

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