Here is a great piece on the National Academy of Science’s new framework for K-12 science education: New report lays out what kids should know about science
How different is this from what kids are learning in school today?
It depends on the school. It depends on the teacher. There’s nothing in this framework that hasn’t been done, but there’s probably no classroom that’s doing it all.
The current national education standards push for science as inquiry. And because inquiry has a whole different set of meanings to different people, the understanding that students should be doing science to learn science has sometimes been overwhelmed by the notion that that was just messing around, and that children really needed to be learning facts.
What the research on learning shows is that students learn better when they have a context in which to put those facts, where the facts are developed in a coherent fashion and where they get to understand what science is by engaging in scientific practices.
So we spell out very explicitly the practices of science we think students should be doing. That is quite a departure. That’s a list that has some pieces in it that very few classrooms are doing today.
How did you come up with the list of core ideas for each area of science?
We had a set of criteria for what constitutes a core idea for science learning. It’s not just what are the core ideas of the discipline, but what are the core ideas of the discipline that are important for students to learn about in K-12? For example in physical science, the core ideas are matter and energy and forces and interactions; those are the ones everyone would expect. But then another one is waves and their relationship to information technology. That’s for kids to understand that physics and chemistry have applications, and understand how these things play out in things they see in their everyday life.
Similarly, the last idea under earth science is the Earth and human activity; that has things like natural hazards but also human impacts on the planet. Both of those are important for kids to understand.
Are there any aspects of the material that may be controversial?
The standards based on this framework will certainly include evolution, and they will also include climate change. Both of those things are, at least by some people, considered controversial, although scientifically they’re not controversial. As the Academy we can say scientifically that this is what the science says and this is what students should know, and the standards will be written based on that. Then the states will have to decide what they do about adopting them.