National Academies Press: OpenBook

Resources for Teaching Elementary School Science (1996)

Chapter: Part 2 Overview

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Suggested Citation:"Part 2 Overview." National Academy of Sciences. 1996. Resources for Teaching Elementary School Science. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4966.
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PART 2
Overview

Part 2, "Elementary School Science Curriculum Materials," focuses on the subject and the setting that together define the National Science Resources Center's mission—improving the teaching of science in the classroom. The chapters in this part of the book provide annotations to an extensive selection of currently available print curriculum materials produced between 1985 and 1995 for teaching hands-on, inquiry-based science in elementary school, grades kindergarten through six.

As described in the "Introduction to the Guide," an extensive review process involving educators and scientists was the mechanism for selecting the more than 350 individual titles annotated in chapters 1 through 4. These materials are presented by subject area:

  • Chapter 1, "Life Science," includes materials on plants, animals, ecology, general biology, and human biology.

  • Chapter 2, "Earth Science," includes materials relating to geology, geography, weather, and astronomy.

  • Chapter 3, "Physical Science," includes materials on such topics as light and color, sound, electricity, heat, energy, magnetism, density, forces and motion, and equilibrium.

  • Chapter 4, "Multidisciplinary and Applied Science," includes materials that relate to several scientific disciplines, integrate scientific disciplines, or focus on the application of scientific processes; interdisciplinary materials are included.

Some curriculum materials concentrate on two or more subject areas. An example would be a unit on the environment that focuses on both life and earth sciences. The annotation for such a unit would appear in chapter 1 if the life science component was emphasized most; it would appear in chapter 2 if greater emphasis was on the earth science component; and it

Suggested Citation:"Part 2 Overview." National Academy of Sciences. 1996. Resources for Teaching Elementary School Science. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4966.
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would appear in chapter 4 if the components were emphasized equally, or presented in an integrated format. In other words, the placement of an annotation in a particular chapter in this guide simply attempts to reflect the emphasis in the unit itself. To locate annotations, readers can refer to the various indexes in the guide, including the index of topics in the curriculum materials and the index of scientific areas and categories of the curriculum materials, by grade level.

The Organization of Materials in Chapters 1-4

The annotations in the curriculum chapters are placed in categories that can be identified as three major levels of materials in teaching hands-on, inquiry-based elementary school science:

  • Core Materials

  • Supplementary Materials

  • Science Activity Books

This grouping allows readers organized and easy access to the full array of materials presented in each scientific area. Descriptions of what constitutes "core," "supplementary," and ''science activity books" for the purposes of this volume are as follows:

  • Core materials are substantial enough to form the foundation of an effective elementary school science curriculum. They (1) focus on concept development and understanding; (2) allow students to study a subject in depth over an extended period of time—typically 6 to 8 weeks, depending upon the grade level; (3) are grade-level specific (that is, they were developed for science classes in one, or at most two, specific grade levels); and (4) include a variety of assessment activities that are aligned with the goals of hands-on, inquiry-based science teaching and learning as an integral part of the module.

  • Supplementary materials are activity-centered units judged to be supportive of inquiry-based science teaching that fosters understanding of science concepts through hands-on student investigations. Although these materials provide support and enrichment, they do not have the depth or focus of core units.

  • Science activity books offer excellent hands-on science activities for children. Such books provide practical ideas for facilitating science learning but are often too broad in scope or too specific in focus to serve as the foundation of an elementary science program. These materials can be used, however, as supplements to existing curriculum or as independent investigations to enhance children's experience of science.

Placing the materials in categories implies no judgment as to the quality, merit, or desirability of any particular title. All of the materials annotated here are considered to be effective teaching materials.

Suggested Citation:"Part 2 Overview." National Academy of Sciences. 1996. Resources for Teaching Elementary School Science. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4966.
×

The Annotations

  • Titles arranged alphabetically and by entry numbers. The annotations in chapters 1 through 4 are arranged alphabetically by title in each category. In addition, each annotation has a two-part entry number. (The chapter number is given before the period; the number after the period locates the entry within that chapter. For example, the first entry number in chapter 1 is 1.1; the second entry in chapter 2 is 2.2, and so on.) The entry numbers within each curriculum chapter run consecutively through Core Materials, Supplementary Materials, and Science Activity Books. The guide's indexes locate each title by its entry number.

  • "Nuts and bolts" boxes. Each entry in chapters 1 through 4 includes an annotation, together with bibliographic and ordering information. "Nuts and bolts" details about the bibliographic and ordering information are presented in boxes throughout these chapters. The boxes include lists of spelled-out acronyms of series titles.

  • Bibliographic information. The bibliographic information is based on the actual volumes reviewed. Some titles may have been revised or updated since materials were submitted for review. Therefore, when readers inquire about a particular title, they may find that a more recent version is available.

  • Grade-level recommendation. At the beginning of each annotation is the grade level recommended by teacher reviewers during the review process. The recommendation reflects the reviewers' judgment of the levels for which the activities would be most appropriate and successful. In some instances, the grade differs slightly from the publisher's advertised level.

  • Description of the curriculum material. The curriculum annotations themselves were written specifically to provide information and assistance to those involved in teaching classes and designing programs in elementary school science. These descriptions focus on what students will learn through the module or activity book. Each annotation describes the organization of the piece of curriculum material and the support it provides for teachers.

  • Unit structure and time required for completion. Information is also given about the structure of a unit and the length of time needed to complete it—for example, the number of lessons or class sessions, the suggested length of lessons, or the overall time required. Such information is taken directly from the unit or activity book itself, although not all units or books state this information consistently.

  • Specific features of units. For reasons of time and space, the annotations do not attempt to mention every aspect of every module or activity book. For example, they may or may not comment on specifics such as students working in teams or groups unless this is a special focus of the piece. But they do attempt to provide readers with an overall sense of each unit or activity book and to mention specially helpful or unexpected features.

Suggested Citation:"Part 2 Overview." National Academy of Sciences. 1996. Resources for Teaching Elementary School Science. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4966.
×
  • Major elements of core materials. For core materials, the last paragraph of the annotations lists the major elements of the teacher's guides. Readers are referred to the NSRC Evaluation Criteria in appendix B for additional details of what core materials are expected to include.

Curriculum Projects Described in Chapter 5

Chapter 5, "Curriculum Projects Past and Present," completes part 2 of the guide. It presents information on some major funded projects in hands-on elementary science dating back to the 1960s and early 1970s. The chapter provides project descriptions and lists of titles produced by these projects, including projects with publications annotated in this volume. In addition to its value for general readers, the information in chapter 5 may be of particular interest to developers of elementary science curriculum materials.

Suggested Citation:"Part 2 Overview." National Academy of Sciences. 1996. Resources for Teaching Elementary School Science. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4966.
×
Page 10
Suggested Citation:"Part 2 Overview." National Academy of Sciences. 1996. Resources for Teaching Elementary School Science. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4966.
×
Page 11
Suggested Citation:"Part 2 Overview." National Academy of Sciences. 1996. Resources for Teaching Elementary School Science. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4966.
×
Page 12
Suggested Citation:"Part 2 Overview." National Academy of Sciences. 1996. Resources for Teaching Elementary School Science. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4966.
×
Page 13
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What activities might a teacher use to help children explore the life cycle of butterflies? What does a science teacher need to conduct a "leaf safari" for students? Where can children safely enjoy hands-on experience with life in an estuary? Selecting resources to teach elementary school science can be confusing and difficult, but few decisions have greater impact on the effectiveness of science teaching.

Educators will find a wealth of information and expert guidance to meet this need in Resources for Teaching Elementary School Science. A completely revised edition of the best-selling resource guide Science for Children: Resources for Teachers, this new book is an annotated guide to hands-on, inquiry-centered curriculum materials and sources of help in teaching science from kindergarten through sixth grade. (Companion volumes for middle and high school are planned.)

The guide annotates about 350 curriculum packages, describing the activities involved and what students learn. Each annotation lists recommended grade levels, accompanying materials and kits or suggested equipment, and ordering information.

These 400 entries were reviewed by both educators and scientists to ensure that they are accurate and current and offer students the opportunity to:

  • Ask questions and find their own answers.
  • Experiment productively.
  • Develop patience, persistence, and confidence in their own ability to solve real problems.

The entries in the curriculum section are grouped by scientific area—Life Science, Earth Science, Physical Science, and Multidisciplinary and Applied Science—and by type—core materials, supplementary materials, and science activity books. Additionally, a section of references for teachers provides annotated listings of books about science and teaching, directories and guides to science trade books, and magazines that will help teachers enhance their students' science education.

Resources for Teaching Elementary School Science also lists by region and state about 600 science centers, museums, and zoos where teachers can take students for interactive science experiences. Annotations highlight almost 300 facilities that make significant efforts to help teachers.

Another section describes more than 100 organizations from which teachers can obtain more resources. And a section on publishers and suppliers give names and addresses of sources for materials.

The guide will be invaluable to teachers, principals, administrators, teacher trainers, science curriculum specialists, and advocates of hands-on science teaching, and it will be of interest to parent-teacher organizations and parents.

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