klane @ patriot.dsdk12.net
on September 17, 1999
LATE RESPONSE: POSTED 9/17/1999
FROM THE DOUGLAS SCHOOLS IN BLACK HILLS, SOUTH DAKOTA
The questions we are addressing are:
1. What instructional materials have you used for middle school science?
What is your take on their strengths and weaknesses?
a. Kits are making inroads in our area due to a big grant. They tie in
nicely wiith standards, but are also limiting and cost more to maintain
after the grant.
b. Web access a big push this year. We have a good network and all rooms
have decent speed, often on several machines. Limits of this tool include a
tendenct to scatter student thinking as they diverge to different sites. It
also becomes necessary to teach ethics and ways to determiine credibility
due to the availability of cutesy but relatively worthless information.
Studdents also need a lot of help learning how to search. This we are
c. Selected video clips that can be shown in segments and support the topic
or issue being worked with are always good. We are using a lot of
Scientific American Frontiers because of their quality, support materials,
the short (10 minutes each) segment issue and generous rights for keeping
the tapes after off-air taping. Other grades still lean heavily on Newton's
d. CD-Rom is always a possibility if they fit, are inexpensive, and well d
one. Some of us are going more to modules wwhile others use them more as
presentation tools or enrichment.
e. Above all, I still value a well-stocked junk pile (store room) scrounged
from supply houses, home, recycling, student leavings, hardwars store and
market. Serendipity is a big part of my style and students create their own
teachable moments if I can supply their ideas at least for starters. Of
course, we always order the annual standards and fill in for breakage plus
submitting a dream list
f. Texts are still low on my list, but we do use them. Now we are looking at
a more modular approach with fewer copies of such all-inclusive content.
g. Better use of community resources remains an elusive goal. We use a lot
of guest speakers and use water and resource specialists in our field work,
but so much more could be done if we had more organization in our ranks.
2. 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 students?
Same list except switch kits (A) and community resources (G).
3. Should new curricula materials for middle school be in earth, life,
and physical science, or multidisciplinary, or interdisciplinary?
Interdisciplinary. I have seen a lot of student heartache, boredom and
curriculum holes with single discipline course in middle grades. Student
interest ranges also support interdisciplinary more.
Shouldthey be all modular or year long? I am ready to make a case for
modular. Teach more science, less content. Less cost and easier update or
replacement. It feels less like the text teaches the course.
Should they be integrated across subject domains? Yes! I think strongly
that this is a critical direction for the future. I see the school of the
future based on totally integrated individual learning plans, plans
completed at home or in learning/daycare centers, with field work on
extended basis' to working labs, factories, wilderness areas for
applications. Life is not based on a clock or periods or single subject
Should they have texts that go along with the activities, as the high school
programs have? Yes. There will always be a need for good resource materials,
reference and background information to support cool activities. Without it
there is a good hook that goes nowhere in application.
Would you recommend a social/societal context, a historical context, or a
traditional one? Historical background is a critical component, but is well
served as a side-dish I feel. The integrated part of the text should follow
a societal conext with a lot of problems and situations to illustrate
concepts that the reference material and activities work skills to help
4. What are the primary barriers to implementing such a curriculum
(teacher certification/training, facitlities, materials)?
Schools of education that do not walk their talk of hands-on, integration,
alternative assessment, problem based, etc.
Lead teacher to model such classrooms.
Technology access and support for most districts.
Funding of equipment and supply needs. Most teachers still buy a LOT of
supplies out of pocket!
Support and organization help in finding and scheduling community