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Teachers tackle new science curriculum

submitter: Reforming Secondary Science Through Teacher Enhancement
published: 07/27/2000
posted to site: 07/27/2000

Teachers tackle new science curriculum

By Carlos Acevedo
Staff writer

Does a metal weigh more hanging in air or submerged in water?

That was a question Spokane School District science teachers were asked Monday during a lecture at the third annual Summer Science Institute.

Teachers tackled the question in small groups, testing their theories by actually performing the task and measuring the results. While the question helped teachers practice their science, it also taught them a key element of teaching: how to ask a brain-stimulating question.

The institute, held at Chase Middle School, provides five days of hands-on professional development for middle- and high-school science teachers.

The symposium's purpose is to help teachers get on track with the new science curriculum, based on state and national science education standards. The district developed the curriculum two years ago and is still in the refining process.

On Monday, education researcher Jim Minstril, of Mercer Island, Wash., lectured on how to help kids understand the concepts behind science.

"He's teaching us how to get kids to think about the science and understand it. We're hoping to take that approach to all areas," said science teacher Jaime Hanlon.

Teaching for understanding is the institute's theme for this year, according to Scott Stowell, the district's science education coordinator.

"Part of the state's essential learning requirements is that students can reason and problem solve," he said. "Having kids memorize facts doesn't get at the underlying problem that is required for problem solving."

Under the new curriculum, students are being asked difficult questions much like the teachers heard at the institute.

The students also are being asked to predict their answers based on their current knowledge. Then they will test their predictions and reevaluate their answers, Stowell said.

Students will still memorize facts but will also explore the underlying concepts in order to develop a deep understanding.

"It's a lot harder to teach this way, but it's better for the students," Hanlon said.

Reforming Secondary Science Through Teacher Enhancement
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