Science & Technology Curriculum Framework
Owning The Questions
The habits of mind necessary for science and technology reflect the underlying philosophy of the Massachusetts Common Core of Learning.
At the heart of science and technology is the invitation to pursue questions about our world. Children meet these questions with an innate curiosity that effective teaching can bend gently toward science. Sometimes curiosity resembles puzzlement or confusion. Other times it resembles fascination, amazement, looking closer, revising ideas, and persistence. Curiosity in all its forms needs to be encouraged and kept alive in our students if they are to embrace science and technology.
Open Mindedness Balanced with Skepticism
Advances in science and technology depend on our staying open to new ideas and then examining them with a critical eye. Those who practice science and technology ensure the credibility of theories and the usefulness of new technologies by generating hypotheses and defining what evidence would be needed to support them. To attain rigor in these disciplines, students must learn to suspend disbelief, entertain new ideas, and be wary of information not supported by good evidence. They must also recognize that all theories remain ever open to reconsideration.
A Sense of Stewardship and Care
Science and technology affect human well-being and environmental quality at almost every turn. As students come to understand this, they develop an idea of stewardship: an appreciation for the richness and diversity of Earth's resources and a sense of responsibility for protecting human beings and the environment that sustains them now and for generations to come. Stewardship in science and technology also entails a sense of reasoned action that leads to safe behavior and a respect for all materials, tools, and life forms which students use to carry out their investigations. Learning safe and responsible practices is critical at all levels of science and technology study. A discussion of safety and material concerns is found in the Instructional Resources and Materials section of this framework.
Respect for Evidence
Evidence is the backbone of scientific and technological understanding. Students must learn to respect the importance of data and testable hypotheses, just as they must appreciate the role pattern and predictability play in both the natural and human-made worlds. Honesty, accuracy, and the willingness to revise an idea or design when faced with contrary evidence are essential components of rigorous scientific proof and optimum design in technology.
A tolerance for complexity and ambiguity help students persist in the face of messy data or procedural uncertainties. Willingness to risk failure, to begin again, to find a new strategy, or to fine-tune an existing one helps us to come up with better and better explanations and solutions in all areas of science and technology.
Investigating Solar Homes
Ms. Albert's fifth graders are clustered into their design teams around four computers, each of them testing two model "solar houses" made of a different material. They have inserted a temperature probe into each house to measure how the inside air temperature changes when a lamp heats the outside of each house. The computer samples the temperature each second and draws a continuous line graph on the screen for each of the two probes, showing temperature over time. By comparing the heating and cooling curves of the line graphs, the students will learn how different materials affect the heating of the air inside, and then decide which materials would be best to use in a solar house in different parts of the country.
The class comes together to look at the graph printouts on the overhead and to discuss their findings. "Our glass house was the BEST," claims one girl, "cause it got real hot real fast." Several students point out that her group's glass house heated up 2deg.C more than the two similar glass houses tested by other groups. One member of another group said, "I wonder if that temperature is right, because it doesn't match the other two." The first girl said, "Of course it's right, the computer said so." Another student disagreed, "Just because the computer says so doesn't mean they did the experiment right."
The students had spent some time discussing what would make the test of all the houses "fair," and agreed that all the variables should be kept the same except for the type of material used in the model. Ms. Albert reminds them of this and asks the class: "What variables might have made a difference in the temperature of this house?" After some debate, each group goes back and measures how far the lamps were from the surface of each glass house. The first group discovers that their lamp was two inches closer than anyone else's. "does that mean this group's answer is wrong?" asks Ms. Albert. The class is quiet for a minute, and then one student raises her hand. "I don't think they have the wrong answer, but they did the test differently from everyone else, so we can't use their data."
The class agreed that the data from the other two glass houses was very close, less than a half a degree different, and confirmed that their lamps were set up at the right distance. The students decide to let the first group adjust their lamp and redo the investigation to make sure the other two samples weren't just a fluke. When the first group gets the new results, their data is within a half degree of the others, and the class agrees they have enough information on glass now to move to the next stage in the curriculum.
As part of their study, Ms. Albert invites a community contractor to show how modern house construction is insulated.