Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Integrated Science Class

"It is not enough to teach science as science. A great teacher designs a science lesson within the context of the greater world and considers the social context of scientific learning, the  myriad avenues of receiving and communicating the information (literacy), and the natural place mathematical thinking has in any field of study."

The quote above is from my first blog post as the "Contemporary Teacher." It models my educational philosophy.

Recently I had what I consider an educational victory. You see, Colorado has integrated physical, earth, and life sciences in their middle school standards. However, not all school districts jumped on board, having separated the three in the past. Mine was right along with the rest in avoiding the change. We're three years into the changed standards and my pushing has finally resulted in discussions about actually changing our curriculum to match. I had all my arguments and brought resources and it paid off. Much to my surprise, all but 2 teachers were on board. Democracy can be a beautiful thing.

In case you're wondering, here are my reasons for using the state standards as written:

  1. Integrated science allows me as a teacher to develop units that show the complexity of the real world
  2. There are more opportunities for interdisciplinary learning with a greater variety of sciences
  3. the vertical alignment and spiraling of learning developed by the standards designers is intact
  4. better retention by students as they are building on these concepts (versus learning earth science in 6th grade and not seeing it again until 9th grade)
  5. process skills are written at a grade appropriate level
 Next year, I will teach the Colorado State Science Standards as they were intended for 6th grade students. I am terrified, excited, sad at the loss of some of my favorite units (solar system), but always ready to do the work to make changes that I feel are the most appropriate for helping my students.

Here are some things I am working on for myself and my fellow science teachers:
  • a very complicated concept map showing connections between the concepts I will teach as well as vertical alignment (MindMaple Lite is a free software which is GREAT for this purpose)
  • a google sites web page which includes file folder pages that teachers can use to share materials
A note about making changes as your school: If you are going to push for a change, be ready to step up and prove you are an asset to the change process. To be clear, I teach only one section of science. However, this one section gets just as much time and energy as my social studies classes. Some teachers might try to balance this time. I can't do that.  I am just as much science teacher as social studies teacher - the physical schedule has nothing to do with that. I wanted a change, so now it is my job to help my fellow teachers to see this change is doable and a benefit. If we drop the ball and do a poor job of making this change, we will get poor results. If we're going to do it, we'll do it right and thus I see it as my duty to ease the change I pushed for. Educators do not often enough see themselves as a team handling problems together. We get focused on ourselves and our own dilemmas. Change that! For yourself, and your teammates.

Read some of my other blog entries to see how to integrate literacy, math, and social studies into your science content (or vice versa).

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