General Science and Teaching

Organizing Science Curriculum

Hello. This upcoming school year I will solely be teaching Middle school Science. Currently, we have it setup that 6th grade does Life Science, 7th grade does Earth Science, and 8th grade does Physical Science. However, when it comes to sequencing and getting them ready for standardized tests I am at a lost at how to organize the curriculum. My principal is open to me proposing a new way to sequence the Science curriculum too. For example, in Illinois 7th graders are tested for Science and most of the material they are assessed on is Life Science with a few Physical and Life Science questions too. I was just wondering if anyone else is teaching all three sciences and if so, how do you organize your curriculum. Also, how do you address going over all three sciences with each grade level when they are primarily taught one of the sciences for the school year. I look forward to your suggestions and advice. I really want to setup our Science curriculum to be the best it can be. Over the years it has not been very organized.

Jurema Gorham
Jurema Gorham
480 Activity Points

Hi Jurema! I am "across the border" in Indiana. Our curriculum is actually set up to follow the state science standards so we don't have the choice you are making but we used to get to decide those things...And I looked at your standards and they seem to be the same every year in middle school which gives you the flexibility to do what you are describing. You might also look at the Common Core Framework to see how it might fit in. Right now 6th grade is looking at energy - how does energy affect phase of matter , how does energy change forms (physical science), how does energy cycle though ecosystems (life), they are also looking at Earth/Sun/Moon interactions (Earth) 7th grade is focusing on conservation of energy and types of energy (physical), earthquakes/volcanoes/plate tectonics (energy in the earth), and cells and their functions in single and multicellular organisms (life) 8th grade studies weather and human interactions with the environment (earth), chemical reactions and the periodic table and conservation of mass (chemistry), and inheritance, form and function of organisms, and natural selections vs selective breeding (life) When we set our own standards in the past, we tried to use themes like energy transfer, scale, or some such thing each year as an overarching concept and then assigned topics that way so they built on each other each year. What you are trying to do is hard from the ground up - you might try using the state standards links on the homepage for the Learning Center to see how other states have organized their curricula and find one similar to yours you can build on.

Tina Harris
Tina Harris
65805 Activity Points

Hi Jurema,
I taught middle school science in Illinois for over 25 years, and our district decided several years ago to go to a spiraling curriculum. We teach physical, life, and earth/space in every grade (6 - 8). You can go to my district's website and download the pdf files of the student learner objectives for each grade level. That way you can see exactly what is covered for each grade. The students are exposed to each the major science disciplines for three years in a row. It worked for us; our students have always received high scores (in the high 90s) each year on the ISATs. Here is the link if you are interested: District 96. On the home page, go to the Quick Links: Curriculum
Carolyn

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
86483 Activity Points

Thank you so much Tina and Carolyn. Your information and advice is so helpful.

Jurema Gorham
Jurema Gorham
480 Activity Points

Thank you so much Tina and Carolyn. Your information and advice is so helpful.

Jurema Gorham
Jurema Gorham
480 Activity Points

This question is for Carolyn. How do you rotate textbooks among students if they all are taught all three sciences throughout the school year? Or do the textbooks just stay in your classroom.

Jurema Gorham
Jurema Gorham
480 Activity Points

Hi Jurema, We had enough copies of each textbook for the largest grade level (population wise). That is the ideal situation; as teachers need students to receive copies of the texts, the students might go to the school learning center and check the books out like they would a library book. We stored the texts in a prep room when they weren't being used by a particular grade level or teacher. Having the learning center help with the checking in and out is a great help! If you can get your librarian onboard you will be so appreciative! It is extra work for the learning center! They are happy that you are willing to store them when the students weren't using them. I hope this helps. Carolyn

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
86483 Activity Points

Thanks Carolyn. Quick question. I am currently outlining for each grade level as I type. How id you breakdown the different areas of science? By quarter? By unit? I have now each quarter being a different area of science being taught (I.e. life, earth, and physical). But then I don't know what to teach for the fourth quarter. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

Jurema Gorham
Jurema Gorham
480 Activity Points

It has been a few years now since I taught 8th grade science, but I think we had 4 units: Catastrophic Events (earth science), Atoms and the Periodic Table (chemistry), Force and Motion (physical science), Cell Biology and Genetics (Life sciences), and Astronomy (space science). We had two middle schools in our district and had to agree upon a week's time frame to take common summative assessments at the end of each unit. So we collaborated at the beginning of each year to determine how much time we could allow for each unit. We had to adhere to the parameters so that our students would not get shortchanged in one unit over another. Our Force and Motion unit was always the last one, because we had a neat Egg Vehicle Project that we had the students do at the end of the school year. It was very engaging and kept their interests at a time when all they wanted to think about was middle school graduation and summer. I hope this helps. Carolyn

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
86483 Activity Points

I currently teach 7th grade science in IL, and we are also re-doing our curriculum map in 7th grade to better address ISAT goals. We will be using the Coach ISAT prepbook this upcoming year, so our students will get a survey course in science. My students usually have only one year of dedicated science instruction prior to 7th grade, so we considered this our best option. I also like the idea that our students will have an opportunity to experience almost all of the science content areas... My concern is that we still are trying to go wide and not deep...when deep is what the students really need for long term retention. You mentioned four units...that really seems like a lot to cover in one year...but again, maybe that is because I have to work to get my students caught up before I can move them forward... Carolyn, Could you share your egg vehicle lesson plan? We are currently working on force and motion, and that sounds like a great activity!

Susanne Hokkanen
Susanne Hokkanen
79060 Activity Points

Hi Jurema I have taught middle school the last 15 years and I also taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. Texas curriculum is no longer outlined as you described in your original post. All grades are integrated with augmentation as the grades progress. You might want to look at the Texas TEKS to see how they address each grade level. I am attaching the website. I hope you find it useful. http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter112/index.html Adah

Adah Stock
Adah Stock
101510 Activity Points

Hi Sue,
I don't have access to the website anymore my colleague and I had the information online about our egg vehicle project. But I found another site that might work for you:
Egg Vehicle Project
This might actually be easier for you to replicate. To crash our egg vehicles we had set up a trapeze type apparatus on two of our lab tables. This school has the vehicles going down ramps into brick walls. Check it out. If you want me to dig around for paper copies of the way I did it, email me. Anything for you...:-)
Carolyn

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
86483 Activity Points

Greetings. In Indiana the curriculum is based on integrated core standards: basically a quarter of each: Life, Earth, Physical and Engineering Design. I have found using concepts of Systems Thinking really allows me to connect and integrate a variety of materials and standards. Bianca

Bianca McRae
Bianca McRae
1760 Activity Points

Bianca, What topics do you cover when you get to the quarter on Engineering? Also, how do you choose what topics to cover for each grade level? I am working on that now for my 6th-8th graders. I want to cover all four untis too.

Jurema Gorham
Jurema Gorham
480 Activity Points

Hi. I usually build something... towers, bridges, rubber band cars... I am new to Science Olympiad challenges and have just started using ideas from them...Optics pathways... thermal containers... I also just discovered NASA challenges... Tonight there was a great webinar on the Balloon Aerodynamics Challenge... it seems so practical... explored neutral buoyancy and density... I can't wait to start the school year with it... This year is winding down and I have Life Science standards to deal with... besides... its a good time of year to go outside! Bianca :o}

Bianca McRae
Bianca McRae
1760 Activity Points

I missed the webseminar last night on "Engineering Design: Forces and Motion -- Balloon Aerodynamics Challenge," so I watch it in the archived format. Here is a link, if others missed it too and would like to still view it: http://learningcenter.nsta.org/products/symposia_seminars/NES2/webseminar23-2.aspx Perhaps the best place to start is where your students are. There is a great set of books to help guide in establishing curriculum called the Atlas of Science of Science Literacy. Here is a link to volume 1: http://www.nsta.org/store/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/9780871686688 There was also a webseminar on how to use the Atlas a few months ago. I will try to find it and post a link here...

Susanne Hokkanen
Susanne Hokkanen
79060 Activity Points

Jurema I think an engineering quarter where you look at how science and technology work together to change how people live would be a great 4th quarter and would also tie into the new Core Standards. But to decide what to do, you need to look at what you are teaching each year and plan your projects accordingly. So if you are emphasizing force and motion one year, you might have students construct a variety of moving vehicles like the straw airplanes or rockets previously described or mousetrap cars and maybe a Rube Goldberg contraption (see http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/4/ss08_032_03_24 ) If you are emphasizing electricity or light or heat, an inquiry project on one of those topics might be advisable. You can find all kinds of ideas for those through a search of the Learning Center - both articles and forums with discussions. If your emphasis is chemistry - there are some neat collections on nanoscience that feature articles discussing projects in the area of materials science and still other activities where you test materials/chemicals for their usefulness. You could also work in a unit on water quality here where they do stream water quality testing and learn where their water comes from and how it is cleaned. That could tie into erosional processes and pollution. You could also do things like Carbon Footprints like this article ( http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/4/ss09_033_03_49 ) If you emphasize earth science, maybe you want to construct a model of "an earthquake proof house" or a working seismograph or weather station - things you maybe talked about but didn't have time to construct (or you could simply take a week from this "quarter" to add to the science content "quarter" for construction). Maybe you would rather do something during this "engineering" quarter on renewable and non-renewable energy and construct energy windmills, solar panels (or solar cars), or do a community recycling/reclamation project. There are so many possibilities for this final quarter. Once you choose an idea - check for forums and collections for resources to fill it out or let us know here and we will brainstorm some more with you!

Tina Harris
Tina Harris
65805 Activity Points

First, I will like to say thank you so much for all the information and advice I am receiving for organizing my science curriculum. It is truly been a task to get everything together. It seems like most of you only teach one grade level of Science in middle school. I guess my biggest issue is since I teach 6th-8th Science, how can I build a curriculum that hits the major standards year after year. After researching, I believe a spiraling curriculum will be the best route to go. Previous our school taught Life Science for 6th grade, Earth Science for 7th grade, and Physical Science for 8th grade. However, when it comes to testing and making connections, it would be hard for students to recall previously taught information. I have not mentioned this but I teach in Illinois, so I am trying to make sure I hit all the standards for our state. I am very excited about the common core standards that will soon be released for Science. Does anyone in this forum currently teach in Illinois and teaches 6th-8th grade Science? If yes, I would love to know how you breakdown your curriculum throughout the year and what has proven to be effective. I hope to have my plan for mapping out the curriculum for each grade level done by June 1st. All input will be appreciated and once again thanks to those who have commented already.

Jurema Gorham
Jurema Gorham
480 Activity Points

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