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Course Preface  
 

Utah Science Core Curriculum
Earth Science

Last updated: 2013

Introduction
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:

  • Each grade level begins with a brief course description.
  • The INTENDED LEARNING OUTCOMES (ILOs) describe the goals for science skills and attitudes. They are found at the beginning of each grade, and are an integral part of the Core that should be included as part of instruction.
  • The SCIENCE BENCHMARKS describe the science content students should know. Each grade level has three to five Science Benchmarks. The ILOs and Benchmarks intersect in the Standards, Objectives and Indicators.
  • A STANDARD is a broad statement of what students are expected to understand. Several Objectives are listed under each Standard.
  • An OBJECTIVE is a more focused description of what students need to know and be able to do at the completion of instruction. If students have mastered the Objectives associated with a given Standard, they are judged to have mastered that Standard at that grade level. Several Indicators are described for each Objective.
  • An INDICATOR is a measurable or observable student action that enables one to judge whether a student has mastered a particular Objective. Indicators are not meant to be classroom activities, but they can help guide classroom instruction.
  • SCIENCE LANGUAGE STUDENTS SHOULD USE is a list of terms that students and teachers should integrate into their normal daily conversations around science topics. These are not vocabulary lists for students to memorize.

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:

  • Use science process and thinking skills.
  • Manifest science interests and attitudes.
  • Understand important science concepts and principles.
  • Communicate effectively using science language and reasoning.
  • Demonstrate awareness of the social and historical aspects of science.
  • Understand the nature of science.

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.

Intended Learning Outcomes for Earth Systems Science, Biology, Chemistry and Physics

The Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) describe the skills and attitudes students should learn as a result of science instruction. They are an essential part of the Science Core Curriculum and provide teachers with a standard for evaluation of student learning in science. Instruction should include significant science experiences that lead to student understanding using the ILOs.

The main intent of science instruction in Utah is that students will value and use science as a process of obtaining knowledge based upon observable evidence.

By the end of science instruction in high school, students will be able to:

  1. Use Science Process and Thinking Skills
    1. Observe objects, events and patterns and record both qualitative and quantitative information.
    2. Use comparisons to help understand observations and phenomena.
    3. Evaluate, sort, and sequence data according to given criteria.
    4. Select and use appropriate technological instruments to collect and analyze data.
    5. Plan and conduct experiments in which students may:
      • Identify a problem.
      • Formulate research questions and hypotheses.
      • Predict results of investigations based upon prior data.
      • Identify variables and describe the relationships between them.
      • Plan procedures to control independent variables.
      • Collect data on the dependent variable(s).
      • Select the appropriate format (e.g., graph, chart, diagram) and use it to summarize the data obtained.
      • Analyze data, check it for accuracy and construct reasonable conclusions.
      • Prepare written and oral reports of investigations.
    6. Distinguish between factual statements and inferences.
    7. Develop and use classification systems.
    8. Construct models, simulations and metaphors to describe and explain natural phenomena.
    9. Use mathematics as a precise method for showing relationships.
    10. Form alternative hypotheses to explain a problem.
  2. Manifest Scientific Attitudes and Interests
    1. Voluntarily read and study books and other materials about science.
    2. Raise questions about objects, events and processes that can be answered through scientific investigation.
    3. Maintain an open and questioning mind toward ideas and alternative points of view.
    4. Accept responsibility for actively helping to resolve social, ethical and ecological problems related to science and technology.
    5. Evaluate scientifically related claims against available evidence.
    6. Reject pseudoscience as a source of scientific knowledge.
  3. Demonstrate Understanding of Science Concepts, Principles and Systems
    1. Know and explain science information specified for the subject being studied.
    2. Distinguish between examples and non-examples of concepts that have been taught.
    3. Apply principles and concepts of science to explain various phenomena.
    4. Solve problems by applying science principles and procedures.
  4. Communicate Effectively Using Science Language and Reasoning
    1. Provide relevant data to support their inferences and conclusions.
    2. Use precise scientific language in oral and written communication.
    3. Use proper English in oral and written reports.
    4. Use reference sources to obtain information and cite the sources.
    5. Use mathematical language and reasoning to communicate information.
  5. Demonstrate Awareness of Social and Historical Aspects of Science
    1. Cite examples of how science affects human life.
    2. Give instances of how technological advances have influenced the progress of science and how science has influenced advances in technology.
    3. Understand the cumulative nature of scientific knowledge.
    4. Recognize contributions to science knowledge that have been made by both women and men.
  6. Demonstrate Understanding of the Nature of Science
    1. Science is a way of knowing that is used by many people, not just scientists.
    2. Understand that science investigations use a variety of methods and do not always use the same set of procedures; understand that there is not just one "scientific method."
    3. Science findings are based upon evidence.
    4. Understand that science conclusions are tentative and therefore never final. Understandings based upon these conclusions are subject to revision in light of new evidence.
    5. Understand that scientific conclusions are based on the assumption that natural laws operate today as they did in the past and that they will continue to do so in the future.
    6. Understand the use of the term "theory" in science, and that the scientific community validates each theory before it is accepted. If new evidence is discovered that the theory does not accommodate, the theory is generally modified in light of this new evidence.
    7. Understand that various disciplines of science are interrelated and share common rules of evidence to explain phenomena in the natural world.
    8. Understand that scientific inquiry is characterized by a common set of values that include logical thinking, precision, open-mindedness, objectivity, skepticism, replicability of results and honest and ethical reporting of findings. These values function as criteria in distinguishing between science and non-science.
    9. Understand that science and technology may raise ethical issues for which science, by itself, does not provide solutions.

  

Science language students should use: generalize, conclude, hypothesis, theory, variable, measure, evidence, data, inference, infer, compare, predict, interpret, analyze, relate, calculate, observe, describe, classify, technology, experiment, investigation, tentative, assumption, ethical, replicability, precision, skeptical, methods of science

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