Integrating the curriculum in a split grade is challenging even at the best of times. Especially when we have been trained to not see any obvious links between the expectations. For instance, a Grade 2 science curriculum focusses on the states of matter, the Grade 3 curriculum focuses on structures.
For many teachers, the ability to do this does not possible. It just does not fit a cognitive ‘schema’ for how science can and should work among students. However, each does not need to be taught in isolation. The opportunities are endless if we allow ourselves to think outside the box!
Our world is changing rapidly with technology and in 20 years I am certain we will face a major upheaval and our traditional schools structures and ideas will no longer serve us. Even in today’s information age, we need to give ourselves permission to step outside of our previous cognitive schemata of how school should look, feel, run, behave, operate, produce, consume etc., and open ourselves up to new ways of thinking. Learning can be messy, loud, collaborative, explorative, and not conform to traditional ways of thinking.
8 Steps to Change our Schemata about Teaching Science:
1. We need to give ourselves permission to move from inflexible cognitive schemas of how school traditionally works. We cannot hope to cover each and every expectation on the curriculum list, and that is not our ultimate goal. That will not produce deep conceptual learning in any topic.
2. Think about what is important to the students.
3. Enable them to create their own inquiries.
4. Provide choices for submitting summative work. For instance, provide a range of options for presenting.
5. Science is very hands-on. Provide opportunities for exploration, play, interaction, collaboration, inquiry. Consider backwards design strategies
6. Go ahead and have each grade engage in the same ‘summative task’! But assess on different elements. Extract the necessary summative feedback according to the learning goals for each grade. For instance, why not consider the grade 2’s who are studying states of matter, work as partners with the grade 3’s who are doing structures. Build a structure that will effectively hold a specific matter. The grade 2 student can be responsible for presenting the properties of the matter and the grade 3 student can be responsible for explaining why the structure is adequate for managing the ‘matter’ it holds. (I have not done this, but was inspired about this idea after talking with a colleague).
7. Science integrates very well with literacy, and any subject, but I don’t assess their grammar etc., for science. Therefore, I do not have them fill out worksheets or tests. I integrate ed-tech, and this also lends itself naturally to higher order thinking, digital literacies, and information processing skills.
8. Embed Indigenous knowledge into the science curriculum! History, knowledge, culture are all important to embed into the science curriculum. However, I also embed strategies that promote FNMI values including the use of talking circles, the seven grandfather and medicine wheel to just name a few. I have also had Elders and FNMI community members in as well. The students never forget these special experiences, and LOVE science even more for the powerful connections made.
The more we strive to integrate edtech, FNMI knowledges, and interdisciplinary work, the more we can promote a different type of learning environment. It is slow at first, but eventually we can build that kind of capacity for flexible, personalized and deep conceptual learning for our students.
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