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Science and Technology/Engineering
Curriculum Framework - Spring 2001

Strand 3 : Physical Sciences (Chemistry and Physics)

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The physical sciences (physics and chemistry) examine the physical world around us. Using the methods of the physical sciences, students learn about the composition, structure, properties, and reactions of matter and the relationships between matter and energy.

Students are best able to build understanding of the physical sciences through hands-on exploration of the physical world. This framework encourages repeated and increasingly sophisticated experiences that help students understand properties of matter, chemical reactions, forces and motion, and energy. The links between these concrete experiences and more abstract knowledge and representations are forged gradually. Over the course of their schooling, students develop more inclusive and generalizable explanations about physical and chemical interactions.

Tools play a key role in the study of the physical world, helping students to detect physical phenomena that are beyond the range of their senses. By using well-designed instruments and computer-based technologies, students can better explore physical phenomena in ways that support greater conceptual understanding.

The physical science learning standards for PrePreK-2 fall under the topics of Observable Properties of Objects, States of Matter, and Position and Motion of Objects. Young children's curiosity is engaged when they observe physical processes and sort objects by different criteria. During these activities, children learn basic concepts about how things are alike or different. As they push, pull, and transform objects by acting upon them, children see the results of their actions and begin to understand how part of their world works. They continue to build understanding by telling stories about what they did and what they found out.

The standards for grades 3-5 fall under the topics of Properties of Objects and Materials, States of Matter, and Forms of Energy (including electrical, magnetic, sound, and light). Students' growth in their understanding of ordinary things allows them to make the intellectual connections necessary for understanding how the physical world works. Students are able to design simple comparative tests, carry out the tests, collect and record data, analyze results, and communicate their findings to others.

The standards for grades 6-8 fall under the topics of Properties of Matter, Elements, Compounds and Mixtures, Motion of Objects, Forms of Energy, and Heat Energy. While students at the middle school level may be better able to manage and represent ideas through language and mathematics, they still need concrete, physical-world experiences to help them develop concepts associated with motion, mass, volume, and energy. As they learn to make accurate measurements using a variety of instruments, their experiments become more quantitative and their physical models more precise. Students are able to understand relationships and can graph one measurement in relation to another, such as temperature change over time. Students may collect data by using microcomputeror calculator-based laboratories (MBL or CBL), and learn to make sense immediately of graphical and other abstract representations essential to scientific understanding.

The high school standards for physics include Motion, Forces, Energy, Waves, and Electromagnetism. At the end of their study based on these standards, students can understand the evidence that underlies more complex concepts of physics, including forces and vectors, and transformations of energy. Graphical representations and the gradual introduction of functions introduce students to well-defined laws and principles of physics.

The high school chemistry standards for a full-year study include Properties of Matter, Atomic Structure and Bonding, Chemical Reactions and Stoichiometry, Solutions, Acids and Bases, and Equilibrium and Kinetics. Because chemistry is central to our understanding of many other sciences, chemistry instruction should include links to actual applications to enable students to relate chemistry to their everyday lives and current engineering/technology. At the end of their study, students are capable of using sophisticated models and rigorous mathematical computations to make formal statements of principles of chemistry and understand their implications. They are able to apply their understanding in another science course, in a higher level of science or engineering/technology learning, or in the experiences they encounter.

Last Updated: May 1, 2001
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