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Science - Biology
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Science is a way of knowing, a process for gaining knowledge and understanding of the natural world. The Science Core Curriculum places emphasis on understanding and using skills. Students should be active learners. It is not enough for students to read about science; they must do science. They should observe, inquire, question, formulate and test hypotheses, analyze data, report, and evaluate findings. The students, as scientists, should have hands-on, active experiences throughout the instruction of the science curriculum.
The Science Core describes what students should know and be able to do at the end of each course. It was developed, critiqued, piloted, and revised by a community of Utah science teachers, university science educators, State Office of Education specialists, scientists, expert national consultants, and an advisory committee representing a wide diversity of people from the community. The Core reflects the current philosophy of science education that is expressed in national documents developed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academies of Science. This Science Core has the endorsement of the Utah Science Teachers Association. The Core reflects high standards of achievement in science for all students.
Organization of the Science Core
The Core is designed to help teachers organize and deliver instruction. Elements of the Core include the following:
Seven Guidelines Were Used in Developing the Science Core
Reflects the Nature of Science: Science is a way of knowing, a process for gaining knowledge and understanding of the natural world. The Core is designed to produce an integrated set of Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) for students.
As described in these ILOs, students will:
Coherent: The Core has been designed so that, wherever possible, the science ideas taught within a particular grade level have a logical and natural connection with each other and with those of earlier grades. Efforts have also been made to select topics and skills that integrate well with one another and with other subject areas appropriate to grade level. In addition, there is an upward articulation of science concepts, skills, and content. This spiraling is intended to prepare students to understand and use more complex science concepts and skills as they advance through their science learning.
Developmentally Appropriate: The Core takes into account the psychological and social readiness of students. It builds from concrete experiences to more abstract understandings. The Core describes science language students should use that is appropriate to their grade level. A more extensive vocabulary should not be emphasized. In the past, many educators may have mistakenly thought that students understood abstract concepts (such as the nature of the atom) because they repeated appropriate names and vocabulary (such as "electron" and "neutron"). The Core resists the temptation to describe abstract concepts at inappropriate grade levels; rather, it focuses on providing experiences with concepts that students can explore and understand in depth to build a foundation for future science learning.
Encourages Good Teaching Practices: It is impossible to accomplish the full intent of the Core by lecturing and having students read from textbooks. The Science Core emphasizes student inquiry. Science process skills are central in each standard. Good science encourages students to gain knowledge by doing science: observing, questioning, exploring, making and testing hypotheses, comparing predictions, evaluating data, and communicating conclusions. The Core is designed to encourage instruction with students working in cooperative groups. Instruction should connect lessons with students' daily lives. The Core directs experiential science instruction for all students, not just those who have traditionally succeeded in science classes.
Comprehensive: The Science Core does not cover all topics that have traditionally been in the science curriculum; however, it does provide a comprehensive background in science. By emphasizing depth rather than breadth, the Core seeks to empower students rather than intimidate them with a collection of isolated and forgettable facts. Teachers are free to add related concepts and skills, but they are expected to teach all the standards and objectives specified in the Core for their grade level.
Useful and Relevant: This curriculum relates directly to student needs and interests. It is grounded in the natural world in which we live. Relevance of science to other endeavors enables students to transfer skills gained from science instruction into their other school subjects and into their lives outside the classroom.
Encourages Good Assessment Practices: Student achievement of the standards and objectives in this Core is best assessed using a variety of assessment instruments. The purpose of an assessment should be clear to the teacher as it is planned, implemented, and evaluated. Performance tests are particularly appropriate to evaluate student mastery of science processes and problem-solving skills. Teachers should use a variety of classroom assessment approaches in conjunction with standard assessment instruments to inform their instruction. Observation of students engaged in science activities is highly recommended as a way to assess students' skills as well as attitudes in science. The nature of the questions posed by students provides important evidence of students' understanding of and interest in science.
Biology Core Curriculum
The Biology Core Curriculum has two primary goals: (1) students will value and use science as a process of obtaining knowledge based on observable evidence, and (2) students' curiosity will be sustained as they develop and refine the abilities associated with scientific inquiry.
The Biology Core has three major concepts for the focus of instruction: (1) the structures in all living things occur as a result of necessary functions. (2) Interactions of organisms in an environment are determined by the biotic and abiotic components of the environment. (3) Evolution of species occurs over time and is related to the environment in which the species live.
Biology students should design and perform experiments, and value inquiry as the fundamental scientific process. They should be encouraged to maintain an open and questioning mind, to pose their own questions about objects, events, processes, and results. They should have the opportunity to plan and conduct their own experiments, and come to their own conclusions as they read, observe, compare, describe, infer, and draw conclusions. The results of their experiments need to be compared for reasonableness to multiple sources of information. They should be encouraged to use reasoning as they apply biology concepts to their lives.
Good science instruction requires hands-on science investigations in which student inquiry is an important goal. Teachers should provide opportunities for all students to experience many things. Students should investigate living organisms from each kingdom. Laboratory investigations should be frequent and meaningful components of biology instruction. Students should enjoy science as a process of discovering and understanding the natural world.
Biology Core concepts should be integrated with concepts and skills from other curriculum areas. Reading, writing, and mathematics skills should be emphasized as integral to the instruction of science. Personal relevance of science in students' lives is an important part of helping students to value science and should be emphasized at this grade level. Developing students' writing skills in science should be an important part of science instruction in biology. Students should regularly write descriptions of their observations and experiments. Lab journals are an effective way to emphasize the importance of writing in science.
Providing opportunities for students to gain insights into science related careers adds to the relevance of science learning. Biology provides students with an opportunity to investigate careers in genetics, biotechnology, wildlife management, environmental science, and many fields of medicine.
Value for honesty, integrity, self-discipline, respect, responsibility, punctuality, dependability, courtesy, cooperation, consideration, and teamwork should be emphasized as an integral part of science learning. These relate to the care of living things, safety and concern for self and others, and environmental stewardship. Honesty in all aspects of research, experimentation, data collection, and reporting is an essential component of science.
This Core was designed using the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Project 2061: Benchmarks For Science Literacy and the National Academy of Science's National Science Education Standards as guides to determine appropriate content and skills.
The hands-on nature of science learning increases the need for teachers to use appropriate precautions in the classroom and field. Proper handling and disposal of chemicals is crucial for a safe classroom. The chemistry described in biology can be accomplished using safe household chemicals and microchemistry techniques. It is important that all students understand the rules for a safe classroom.
Appropriate Use of Living Things in the Science Classroom
It is important to maintain a safe, humane environment for animals in the classroom. Field activities should be well thought out and use appropriate and safe practices. Student collections should be done under the guidance of the teacher with attention to the impact on the environment. The number and size of the samples taken for the collections should be considered in light of the educational benefit. Some organisms should not be taken from the environment, but rather observed and described using photographs, drawings, or written descriptions to be included in the student's collection. Teachers must adhere to the published guidelines for the proper use of animals, equipment, and chemicals in the classroom. These guidelines are available on the Utah Science Home Page.
The Most Important Goal
Science instruction should cultivate and build on students' curiosity and sense of wonder. Effective science instruction engages students in enjoyable learning experiences. Science instruction should be as thrilling an experience for a student as opening a rock and seeing a fossil, tracing and interpreting a pedigree, or observing the affects of some chemical on the heartbeat of daphnia. Science is not just for those who have traditionally succeeded in the subject, and it is not just for those who will choose science-related careers. In a world of rapidly expanding knowledge and technology, all students must gain the skills they will need to understand and function responsibly and successfully in the world. The Core provides skills in a context that enables students to experience the joy of doing science.
Core Standards of the Course
There are predictable patterns of inheritance. Sexual reproduction increases the genetic variation of a species. Asexual reproduction provides offspring that have the same genetic code as the parent.
Students will understand that genetic information coded in DNA is passed from parents to offspring by sexual and asexual reproduction. The basic structure of DNA is the same in all living things. Changes in DNA may alter genetic expression.