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Science Blasts Off: The Gift of Science

The Westview School was awarded a generous grant by the Clark and Charlene Thompson Foundation to enhance the science program for students in Kindergarten through Grade 8. These funds allowed us to upgrade the technology, curriculum, and materials in the science lab in the 1830 building and create a dedicated, well-appointed science lab in the 1900 building for our youngest students.

What does good science instruction look like?

In recent years, the National Science Teachers Association has recommended a pedagogical shift in how science is taught in schools. The group strongly believes that developmentally appropriate laboratory investigations are essential for students of all ages and ability levels. Through a robust lab-based science program, the association states that students have opportunities to develop logical thinking, open-mindedness, objectivity, skepticism, and critical thinking.

The most effective science programs teach students how to learn and to construct their own understanding. More specifically, students apply the skills that they learn in other content areas such as reading and math to answer a question or solve a problem. In the real world, scientists read and interpret non-fiction text to learn more about a topic of study. Researchers collect, organize, and analyze data to identify patterns and explain phenomena observed in the natural world. Scholars communicate their findings to others.

How will The Westview School prepare to make this shift?

In 2021, Jared Dawkins, Upper Elementary Middle School Science Teacher, Dr. Bevan Koch, Head of School, and Dr. Carol Harrison, Lower School Principal, embarked upon a review of available science programs. The trio began by identifying criteria for evaluating commercially available options.

Some essentials for the program were that it included best practices in science instruction, would provide a cohesive experience for students as they move through the program, included opportunities for students to practice using critical thinking skills, and could be easily adapted to meet the unique needs of our students. We requested samples of materials from 12 different publishers for our review. Amplify Science emerged as the front runner. The program is highly engaging, easily adaptable for multiple grade levels, and is a perfect fit for our students and their learning styles.

What will science instruction look like next year?

Next year, students in Kindergarten through Middle School will take on the roles of scientists, chemists, and engineers to investigate interesting problems and propose workable solutions. Our students will gather evidence, think critically, solve problems, make and defend claims about the world around them, and communicate their findings. As students advance through the grade levels, the complexity of laboratory investigations will increase, and students will explore topics from various strands of science, including astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth science, geology, and physics. Our goal is to develop our students as people of intellect. We are very excited that our students will be engaging in scientific inquiry and are eager to support them in the development of logical and critical thinking skills. We believe that these experiences will lay the groundwork for a lifetime of learning about the complex world in which we live and will inspire them to think big about how to solve some of the world’s trickiest problems.

I am excited about updating our curriculum. It impacts our science program across the board. Amplify Science is really cool. It not only is more aligned with current science standards, it has a fun problem-solving approach to teaching and learning science.