Ideas about designing science programmes

Brenda Gustafson and Dougal MacDonald explain how education researchers advised one Canadian province on a new primary science programme

A FEW YEARS AGO, the Alberta (Canada) Ministry of Education announced it was time to review and rewrite the provincial K–6 science programme. The existing programme was 11 years old and reflected ideas popular in the 1980s and early 1990s. We were asked to support the programme rewrite by reviewing and summarising recent research studies in primary science education that could inform the overall framework and content of the new programme.

What we know
● Science programme content should be connected to children’s lives and community contexts.
● Children’s existing ideas may be strongly held and serve to remind us that new ideas can be difficult to grasp.
● Scientific enquiry should include opportunities to investigate questions, gather evidence, and construct defensible explanations.
● Teachers are key to programme success and children’s learning.

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June 2010