To empower autonomous student learning, teacher’s will need to utilize more than the contents contained in science textbooks which remain their major pedagogical device, primary resource of information for students. Students must become involved learners whereby their thinking is no longer linear but flexible based upon existing knowledge and understanding which is further guided by teachers and various prompts (Eilam & Reiter, 2014). For students to pursue one’s own investigation, teachers have been given the freedom by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). As a result, 21st-century science lessons have become a natural fit therefore permitting the encouragement of teaching methods that are project based encompassing lessons around real-world problems and questions (Tuttle, Obringer, Czajkowski,& Czerniak, 2014).
The intention of this project-based curriculum design is to equip students how to solve the real-world problem of world hunger using creativity, specifically alternative ways of growing plants. Having the curriculum content fixed within a long-term project will enable students to apply learned knowledge and skills and its relevancy in real-world contexts which will not only promote increased understanding, content retention, engagement, and motivation. The curriculum will address the structure and behavior of living organisms, the concept of ecosystems, the five major kingdoms, the earth, the water cycle and weather, as well as matter. Thus, students will meet the required state standards of physical, life, and earth sciences for grade 5.
Needs and Purpose of the Curriculum
One of the positive concepts repeated within the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) regardless of disability, was for all children to receive a free appropriate public education (EAPE) (Moores, 2011). According to Hadzigeorgiou (2015), more student-centered and social alignment have been the aims of the most recent reforms in science education as well as proposals of using scientific knowledge for purposes inclusive of social and personal. Having the ability to think for oneself and knowing how to use one’s mind are prerequisites for truth, moral goodness and beauty pursuance, all of which constitute as liberal education goals (Hadzigeorgiou, 2015). An alternative curriculum design is necessary in the subject area of biology, physical, and life sciences for fifth graders that will inspire curiosity and enable students to continue learning independent research skills and to investigate the world around them. The proposed adaptive program implements a self -paced-, self-regulated, project—based learning science system that provide remediation as well as investigation.
The designed curriculum is primarily conceptualized for a diversified ethnic population of grade-level fifth graders within a low socioeconomic urban community. Within a single 5th grade science class for the duration of 8 weeks, the proposed curriculum could be implemented for evaluation. The curriculum will be executed by qualified elementary school teachers with a degree specifically in elementary education whilst prospective students will consist of those who are falling below grade level standards. Successful curriculum integration completion will authorize trained teachers to administer the semester long project in their own classrooms provided with the necessary equipment. The mission is to exact school wide change.
Curriculum design implementation necessitates teacher pre, during, and post instructional planning. Within the classroom setting, teachers will need traditional materials such as paper, color pencils, a copy machine, ink, paper, a printer, a projector, magnifying glasses, and microscopes. Additional materials would include grow trays, various plants, fish, fish tanks, grow beds, pH test kit, gravel, water pump, aquarium air pump, air stone and tubing. Rather than buying a commercially built system, the teachers will be provided with the supplies to build DIY versions of the system at a much cheaper cost, approximately, $1000. Course content will be taught from a textbook in addition to interactive science CD-ROMS. The teacher will be required to secure an appointed time in the school’s computer lab two times a week and also rearrange the classroom to provide space for growing plants in aquaponic systems. If the school’s budget permits and the curriculum design results in success, school administrators will allocate the necessary resources to create an aquaponic and or hydroponic laboratory.
Goals of Course
The primary goals of the curriculum are for students to further develop age-appropriate scientific habits for the expansion of their prior physical world knowledge and experiences and application of new knowledge and inquiry skills in new and differing contexts.
Per the National Science Education Standards, at the conclusion of eight weeks students will have the ability to:
•Design and conduct a scientific investigation.
•Identify questions that can be answered through scientific investigations.
•Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data.
•Think critically and logically to make the relationships between evidence and explanations. (Great schools, 2016)
Objectives of the Course
1. Students will demonstrate the processes and classification of living things.
2. Students will investigate basic properties of matter to distinguish one from another.
3. Students will learn about the periodic table for the identification, organization, and construction of matter.
4. Students will conduct scientific experiments and investigations.
5. Students will observe relationships through project based-assignments
6. Students will utilize various instruments or technology for observation and data collection purposes
7. Students will learn about various biologists and their contribution to science.
Scope and Sequence
The curriculum design will offer a modified block schedule of 40 minutes per day, four times a week for 8 weeks. Outlined below are the topics by day and weeks.
Unit poster projects will be utilized as a way for students to repeat learned facts without analysis.
Handout: Course Evaluation
Monday – Pre-test; Scientific Investigation Introduction: Why are experiments conducted? What problems can be solved through experiment conduction?
Tuesday – Experiment planning
Wednesday – Data organization and collection
Thursday- Observation recordings
Monday – Introduction to matter. What is matter?
Thursday- Read, understand, and recognize major elements on the periodic table
Monday – Introduction of organisms
Tuesday – Cell characteristics identification, description, and function
Wednesday – Compare and contrast animal and plant cells
– scientific contribution of Ernest Just
Thursday- Simple compound microscope labelling
Monday – Identification of the five major kingdoms
Tuesday – Classification of living things
– scientific contribution of Carolus Linnaeus
Monday – Plant life cycle
Tuesday -Naked versus covered seed plants
Wednesday – Plant reproduction investigation
Thursday-Pollen carrier identification
Monday – Weather and climate differentiation
Tuesday – Water cycle
Wednesday -Atmospheric layers
Thursday- Data collection instruments and climate zones of the Earth
Monday – Aquatic habitats
Thursday- Water conservation
Monday – Introduction to aquaponics
Tuesday – Construction of systems
Eilam, B., & Reiter, S. (2014). Long-term self-regulation of biology learning using standard junior high school science curriculum. Science Education, 98(4), 705-737. doi:10.1002/sce.21124
Erdogan, M. N., & Koseoglu, F. (2012). Analysis of high school physics, chemistry and biology curriculums in terms of scientific literacy themes. Educational Sciences: Theory and Practice, 12(4), 2899-2904
Great Schools. (2016). Your fifth grader and science. Retrieved from https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/fifth-grade-science/
Hadzigeorgiou, Y. (2015). A critique of science education as sociopolitical action from the perspective of liberal education. Science & Education, 24(3), 259-280. doi:10.1007/s11191-014-9728-4
Moores, D. F. (2011, Winter2011). Waist deep in the big muddy* The Individuals with disabilities education act (IDEA) and no child left behind (NCLB). American Annals of the Deaf. pp. 523-525.
Tuttle, N., Obringer, M., Czajkowski, K., & Czerniak, C. M. (2014). What is a foot under your feet?. Science and Children, 52(3), 49-53