Science and scientific literacy play a key role in educating citizens of today for the world tomorrow. Critical to succeeding in this endeavour are the core competencies that provide students with the ability to think critically, solve problems, and make ethical decisions; to communicate their questions, express opinions, and challenge ideas in a scientifically literate way; and to exercise an awareness of their role as an ecologically literate citizenry, engaged and competent in meeting the responsibilities of caring for living things and the planet.
Features of the Science curriculum
- With a renewed focus on inquiry, the Science curriculum provides students with opportunities to ask questions, identify their beliefs and opinions, consider a range of views, work collaboratively, and ultimately make informed conclusions that lead to responsible choices for themselves, their families, and their communities.
- The story of science told in the curriculum is a journey that takes the students from becoming aware of their immediate environment to considering the impact of local actions and decisions on a global scale.
- Conceptual learning for all science students is supported, and both traditional ecological knowledge and First Peoples perspectives are embedded in the curriculum.
Design of the Science curriculum
The redesigned Science curriculum has the same format as all other areas of learning. Four curriculum elements — the Big Ideas, Curricular Competencies, Content, and Elaborations — link the knowing, doing, and understanding of science learning. By connecting science knowledge with a hands-on approach to doing science, the curriculum elements support learning in biology, chemistry, physics, and Earth/space science, leading to a deep understanding of science concepts.
The Big Ideas in the Science curriculum tell the story of science through the concepts featured. For each area of science — biology, chemistry, physics, Earth/space science — important concepts are introduced in Kindergarten and expanded in subsequent grades, resulting in a deep understanding of the story of science. In chemistry, for example, the progression of Big Ideas is designed to provide students with a deep understanding of matter, beginning with human interactions with matter through familiar materials and building to the kinetic molecular theory
and the theory of the atom.
|Story of Science: Chemistry||Humans interact with matter every day through familiar materials.||
All matter is made of particles.
|Everyday materials are often mixtures.||The behaviour of matter can be explained by the kinetic molecular theory and the atomic theory.||The behaviour of matter can be explained by the kinetic molecular theory and the atomic theory.|
Elaborations (included as hyperlinks) for the Big Ideas are intended to support scientific inquiry by providing sample questions. The questions offer suggested entry points through which students can begin to investigate concepts related to each Big Idea.
The Core Competencies — Thinking, Communication, and Personal and Social — are embedded in the Curricular Competencies. The Curricular Competencies introduced in Kindergarten are again expanded in a developmental continuum focused on the “doing” of science learning.
Demonstrate curiosity and a sense of wonder about the world
|Demonstrate curiosity about the natural world||
Demonstrate a sustained curiosity about a scientific topic or problem of personal interest
Demonstrate a sustained intellectual curiosity about a scientific topic or problem of personal interest
Share observations and ideas orally
Represent and communicate ideas and findings in a variety of ways, such as diagrams and simple reports, using digital technologies as appropriate
Communicate ideas, explanations, and processes in a variety of ways
|Communicate scientific ideas, information, and perhaps a suggested course of action, for a specific purpose and audience, constructing evidence-based arguments and using appropriate scientific language, conventions, and representations|
|Personal and Social||Contribute to care for self, family, classroom, and school through individual approaches||Contribute to care for self, others, school, and neighbourhood through individual or collaborative approaches||Contribute to care for self, others, and community through individual or collaborative approaches||Contribute to care for self, others, community, and world through individual or collaborative approaches|
Elaborations for the Curricular Competencies are intended to support scientific inquiry and development of a deeper understanding of concepts such as place (i.e., any environment, locality, or context that people interact with to learn, create memory, reflect on history, connect to culture, and establish identity), by providing sample questions and concept-based examples. The Elaborations offer suggested entry points through which students can begin to investigate concepts related to the Curricular Competencies.
The Content is concept-based and includes learning standards for biology (including ecology), chemistry, physics, and Earth/space science at the K–10 level. At Grades 11–12, the areas of science expand to include anatomy and physiology, environmental science, and geology. As the Content for all grades is conceptual by design, cross-cutting concepts that are relevant in science can be applied across numerous areas of learning and further expand science learning. Cross-cutting concepts in the Science curriculum include:
- Cause and effect
- Form and function
- Matter and energy
The Content Elaborations are considered non-mandatory curricular supports that suggest the intended breadth and depth for teaching concepts. The Elaborations may provide definitions of concepts, examples of ways to explore a concept, or additional information that teachers may find useful in clarifying the intent of the concept-based learning standard.
Inquiry in Science
The redesigned Science curriculum is rooted in inquiry. Inquiry is the tool with which students gain content knowledge, learn the habits of mind and skills and processes associated with the doing of science, develop a deeper understanding of science concepts through big ideas, and acquire core competencies as scientifically educated citizens. Inquiry has been emphasized in the redesigned curriculum, with learning standards focused on “doing,” Curricular Competencies structured within an inquiry process model, and numerous Elaborations providing sample questions for students to explore.
Scientific habits of mind
Scientists and students alike use scientific habits of mind as they delve into the system of inquiry that we know as science. Scientific habits of mind are important for equipping students with the thinking skills necessary for engaging in the pursuit of discovery and innovation, as well as for understanding science. In addition, when students approach learning with scientific habits of mind, science learning is exciting and includes a knowledge base that is constantly refined and expanded and is relevant to the modern world. Developing scientific habits of mind provides students with the thinking skills to effectively participate in society as scientifically educated citizens and invites them to explore further studies in science.
Scientific habits of mind include:
- A sustained intellectual curiosity — the desire to continually learn more about something of interest
- An openness to new ideas and consideration of alternatives — an attitude of wonder and interest in new concepts, coupled with a willingness to rethink notions and form new opinions based on evidence
- An appreciation of evidence — an understanding of what proves or disproves a scientific theory
- An awareness of assumptions and a questioning of givens — mindful questioning about something accepted as true without evidence
- A healthy, informed skepticism — challenging the truth of a claim by requiring additional evidence
- A desire to seek patterns, connections, and understanding — the ability to make connections in information and interpret meaning from the patterns
- A consideration of social, ethical, and environmental implications — a willingness to think about personal, societal, moral, and environmental impacts of actions
The environment and science learning
Educated citizens understand the importance of learning about the environment. Environmental education is part of the Personal and Social Core Competency, because it is a responsibility that connects with every area of learning. While the Science curriculum enables a variety of instructional approaches, it was designed with a place-based approach in mind. A place-based approach is an evolving, cross-curricular instructional approach that emphasizes the value of learning directly from one’s own community or region. Place-based learning:1
- Emphasizes hands-on, real-world learning experiences
- Helps students develop ties to their community
- Enhances students’ appreciation for the natural world
- Develops an active, engaged, educated citizenry
As students experience and interpret their local environment, they develop their sense of place. Place is any environment, locality, or context with which people interact to learn, create memory, reflect on history, connect with culture, and establish identity. The connection between people and place is foundational to First Peoples perspectives of the world.
Scientifically educated citizens are place-conscious, see themselves as part of the planet rather than ruler of the planet, stay informed about scientific developments, and are aware of the impact of science on the planet and its systems. The redesigned Science curriculum features reflection questions about place, to develop environmental awareness and a deep understanding of ecological concepts.
Considerations for classroom action
There are several considerations for classroom action in the redesigned Science curriculum:
- The concept-based, competency-driven curriculum enables a variety of approaches (e.g., place-based, inquiry-based, interdisciplinary, STEM, STEAM) for teachers to use to support student learning.
- The curriculum places significant value on place-based perspectives in British Columbia, acknowledging the diversity of localities in the province and inviting students to experience their local environment.
- Connected to place, the curriculum is inclusive of modern and traditional First Peoples perspectives in science and supports traditional ecological knowledge and understanding of local ecosystems.
- While inquiry is at the heart of science learning, inquiry-based learning is not always an efficient way to learn certain important things in science (e.g., terminology, safety procedures, how to use equipment). However, an inquiry might create the need and motivation to learn these skills and concepts.
- In supporting hands-on science experiences, student safety remains a key consideration. Refer to the Science Safety Manual for further support in this area.
1 “Emphasizing hands-on, real-world learning experiences, this approach to education increases academic achievement, helps students develop stronger ties to their community, enhances students’ appreciation for the natural world, and creates a heightened commitment to serving as active contributing citizens. Community vitality and environmental quality are improved through the active engagement of local citizens, community organizations, and environmental resources in the life of the school.” (David Sobel, 2004, Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities, p. 7)