Ideas about designing science programs

Brenda J. Gustafson and Dougal MacDonald explain how education researchers advised one Canadian province on a new elementary science program  

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

What we know
● Science program 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 inquiry should include opportunities to investigate questions, gather evidence, and construct defensible explanations.
● Teachers are key to program success and children’s learning.

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June 2010