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MERLOT II


    

Peer Review


Getting Started in Science: Elementary Science

 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

3 stars
Content Quality: 3.5 stars
Effectiveness: 3 stars
Ease of Use: 2 stars
Reviewed: Jul 13, 2003 by Teacher Education
Overview: Among the good ideas presented in this complex collection of materials are some
summaries of resources appropriate for Elementary Science. For example,
according to the author, the National Center for Improving Science Education
recommends that elementary schools design curricula that introduce nine
scientific concepts. A concise description of the nine realms of understanding
that elementary school students should master is presented. The link to
resources then proceeds to a list of a few of the many excellent science books
available for elementary school children, endorsed by the American Association
for the Advancement of Science for its recommendations, from The New York Times
Parent's Guide to the Best Books for Children, by the National Science Resources
Center; and from Phyllis Marcuccio at the National Science Teachers
Association.
Learning Goals: There appears to be an attempt to bring to parents and teachers of elementary
age children the information on how to set up "scientific" thinking and
learning. The author believes that for a person to become what they are--rather
than what
society makes them out to be--individual responsibility and courage are
required. He goes on to explain that good ideas should be borrowed and
incorporated into one's personal philosophy. To find those good ideas, however,
requires a willingness to think, a willingness to change, and courage to
explore.
Target Student Population: K-6 teachers and parents who intend to advocate for students who are being
taught science.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Both parents and teachers would need to know how to access computers, Internet
and be willing to accept this author's interpretation of the principles
identified on this site. Both parents and teachers would need prior knowledge
of the concepts of how to teach science in order to understand the concepts
presented here.
Type of Material: Reference material. This collection is a sort of Reader's Digest of important
academic resources. For example, this site provides a summary of principles
supported by The National Center for Improving Science Education. As secondary
source for this information the goals are listed for the reader.

Recommended Uses: Inspiration for teachers and parents wanting to advocate for improved science
teaching. However, this material should be viewed with the intent of researching
further by going to the original source which can be found, for example, at the
following URL http://www.wested.org/cs/wew/view/pg/21
Technical Requirements: Ability to access the Internet.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 3.5 stars
Strengths: The author has summarized in clearly stated language the important principles
support by one research group for the improvement of elementary science
instruction. The quality and selection of materials are good and they represent
directions for science teaching supported by research and yet too rarely
implemented.
Concerns: Since this is a secondary source, a hyperlink to the original work and credit to
the original works should be more prominent on the web site. Also, recent ideas
about what science is and is not go beyond what is presented among the
referenced materials. The following ideas come from PBS at
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/educators/course/session1/elaborate_a.html

For example, science IS NOT a process that attempts to prove things. Science
actually tries to disprove ideas (tentative explanations). It challenges or
tests ideas. If the hypothesis or idea stands up to testing, then it is a likely
explanation.

AND science IS NOT a process that can solve or answer all kinds of problems and
questions. It doesn't address the supernatural realm or the realm of values and
ethics.

And science IS NOT a process where one solution is as good as another or is just
a matter of opinion.

Most of the recommended books naturally support this view of science since the
selections are endorsed by the American Association for the Advancement of
Science, The New York Times Parents Guide to the Best Books for Children, the
National Science Resources Center, and by Phyllis Marcuccio at the National
Science Teachers Association.

Many of the pages linked via the menu at the bottom of the page fail to
distinguish between science and belief systems that may be different but
compatible ways of knowing. And since the authorship and academic credentials
of the collector of these materials are not clear, it is imperative that more
accurate references to the original materials be included along with these
summaries.


Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 3 stars
Strengths: This could be used as an introduction to recommended practices and foundations
of science methods.
As a teaching tool, if elementary science teachers were to print and follow the
summary nine statements from the National Center for Improving Science Education
recommendations for elementary schools to design curricula, they would
certainly do a good job teaching science. However, it is becoming more important
for teachers and school districts to select and test rather than design
appropriate science curricula. Still, these same nine principles should apply.

Concerns: The problem of the failure to distinguish between science versus history and
philosophy such as the thinking of modern philosophers-- and ideas about
intelligent design that show up when one follows the links might be confusing to
the non-scientist. Readers who may want to consider the history and exposition
of Western thought, for example about design in the natural world, should
consider the nature of science as a unique approach to thinking about the
natural world. From a scientific perspective, the theory of evolution is a
rigorously tested statement of general principles that explains observable and
recorded aspects of the world. A scientific theory describes a higher level of
understanding that ties facts together. A clear separation of science from
other ways of knowing should help the public become aware that science requires
one to think, analyze and compare available information about the empirical
(measurable) world. Because of empirical (measurable) evidence, the theory of
evolution is NOT a controversial subject in science. The Darwinian theory of
evolution has withstood the test of time and thousands of scientific
experiments; nothing has disproved it since Darwin first proposed it more than
150 years ago. Many people, from evolutionary biologists to important religious
figures like Pope John Paul II, contend that the time-tested theory of evolution
does not refute the presence of God. They acknowledge that evolution is the
description of a process that governs the development of life on Earth. Science
has nothing to say one way or the other about the existence of God or about
spiritual beliefs. Science and religion are two separate ways of knowing about
life. We hope teachers will understand that it does not seem appropriate to
debate beliefs in a science class when science does not even deal with God,
faith, or spirituality. Such topics are not empirical (measurable) and are
therefore outside the realm of science. It is not clear whether the
http://www.2think.org clarifies or muddies these modern views about the
distinctions between science and other ways of knowing about life. The
secondary nature of this summary makes it imperative that the original research
report or publication by the organization that supports the views must be made
available for comparison and verification that the summary is accurate and in
the spirit that the original author intended.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 2 stars
Strengths: The strength of this web page is that it is well written and uses a listing
format which clearly identifies the various elements of science instructional
recommendations, but the organization make it difficult to navigate through the
collection of resources aimed specifically at improving K-8 science education.
Concerns: The 31,977,603 hits this site has generated since 1997 may be artificially
inflated due to the number of pages that must be explored before returning to a
source of material of interest on this site. And yet, the number of hits truly
reflects the value of the material presented. This collection may be best used
as a source of philosophy that might inform views about science teaching, and
not as an academic resource that serves to define future directions, although it
provides valuable information for curriculum reformers to use in restructuring
the way that elementary science instruction is delivered.

Other Issues and Comments: The secondary nature of this reporting makes it imperative that the orginal work
be sited and hyperlinked to this web site.