WASHINGTON- The National Academy of Sciences has at last
released its draft guidelines for K-12 science education
The standards are the culmination of a process which goes
back at least as far as 1982 with the release of "A Nation at
Risk". The process kicked into high gear in 1991 when President
of National Science Teachers Association asked National Research
Council to coordinate the process of creating national science
education standards for K-12. The National Research Council, not
wanting to act over the heads of high school science teachers,
opted for a consensus building approach involving teachers,
scientists and other educators. The consensus was to be based on
a number of goals including:
- definition of target level of science understanding for all
K-12 students, with criteria for content and programs at K-4,
5-8, and 9-12 levels.
- standards flexible enough to allow local variation and
adaptation, but consistent enough to provide continuity for
students moving from one school to another.
- develop three inter-related sets of standards for teaching,
curriculum and assessment.
- standards for preparation and continuing development of
- a long term vision for science education
- criteria for judging models, benchmarks, curricula and
learning experiences developed under the guidelines or via state'
local and teacher-directed initiatives.
- teachers to have central involvement in development process
as opposed to federal mandates from above.
The NAS draft based on the National Research Council's
efforts have incorporated all of these goals. The draft
emphasizes that a new kind of learning environment will be needed
to accomplish many of the set goals. The new approach will
involve more hands-on activities in order to increase the
students ability to use scientific knowledge to solve problems
and explain phenomena in the natural world, as well as to propose
and evaluate alternative hypotheses.
"Memorizing a few scientific terms and definitions is not
particularly interesting or exciting to students and does not
make a person scientifically literate. By engaging students in
hands-on, intellectually stimulating activities and encouraging
them to ask questions and think critically, learning science
becomes enjoyable and exciting. And by learning this way,
students will develop skills that will help them make more
informed decisions throughout their lives," said Dr. Bruce
Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences and chair
of the National Research Council.
The NAS draft is just that, a draft. The next step is a
review process involving more than 200 focus groups at the local
state and national level. (N.B. see AE teachers lounge for info.
on AE focus group). The focus groups will include teachers,
parents, scientists and school administrators, among others.
"Our aim is to use the draft to build a national consensus
about what is important in science education," said Richard
Lausner, chair of the science education standards project and
Chief, Cell Biology and Metabolism Branch, National Institute of
Child health and Human Development.
The proposed standards are divided into eight categories:
science as inquiry; physical science; life science; earth and
space science; science and technology; science in personal and
social perspectives; history and nature of science; the unifying
concepts of science.
The new standards recommend that:
- By grade four, students should understand: properties of
objects and materials; life cycles of organisms; objects in the
sky; local implications of science and technology.
- By grade eight students should understand: the process of
scientific inquiry; motions and forces, reproduction and
heredity; Earth's history; basic history of science
- By the 12th grade students should understand: chemical
reactions; natural resources; the nature of scientific knowledge.
The initial draft of the National Science Education
Standards runs a couple of hundred pages and includes detailed
descriptions of standards for content, for teaching and for