Middle School Science
|Reference/study pages and their status|
|Physical Sciences including Chemistry (GACE)
|Earth and Space Science (Praxis II)
|Biology (Praxis II)
|Scientific Method, or the construction of knowledge (Praxis II)
|Physics (Praxis II)
|Chemistry (Praxis II)
|Science's impact on society, and the history of Science (Praxis II)
|Laboratory work (including field studies) (Praxis II)
|I am very eager to see collaborators join this effort.|
Earth and Space Science
The Middle_School_Science/Earth_and_Space_Science is now a Wikiversity page. The page is still under construction, but only needs headings--and of course peer review to check all the facts.
Important to wv are the ideas behind the Scientific Method, which is below. The material there should evolve into a higher-level article, allowing this reference to become more appropriate for middle school learners. Important in the Scientific Method is the newer technique of implementing a model as opposed to the more accepted method of fielding a hypothesis to prove an idea.
The difficulty for me is in merging the related documents into a meaningful single documents; that least 10% of work seems to demand another 100% of effort. Further adding to the task is that I have found another test outline from New York State, which I may also try to integrate.
I am adding to each test reference (for now kept on google docs), a GACE equivalent to each Praxis II reference. Documents put here on Wikiveristy will be free of non-original text, with the possible exception of text from Wikipedia or other public domain web sites. Even when I do incorporate text I feel a need to rewrite that I cannot ignore; the language necessary for teaching young children has to be very well composed and free of complication or contradiction, so as not to discourage children from science learning by frustrating them with confusion.
Here is the first GACE study guide: Physical Science, including Chemistry.
In the end, what is needed is an outline that addresses each topic as students might best be introduced to them from the perspective of the knowledge that they bring to school. Then when rearranging the topics so as to best fit the students' introduction to Science, the topics tend to merge together to explain surrounding phenomena in ways that are meaningful for the students that contradict the way Science is presented cognitively and didactically.
Schools by district boards of directors, and in my experience boards of directors are anything but democratic as they try to mimic the control systems that has been passed down to us from generation to generation to benefit the universal "human capital" system. Because of this, truly developmental approaches to middle school Science teaching, probably the most important phase of education, is left to individual teachers around the world who do not have the resources, or the power, to document a framework for an interdisciplinary approach incorporating project-type discovery. It seems the task is left to me by writing this Wikiversity article.
Within the science topics themselves I found contradictory information while trying to satisfying the requirements. The study of waves is a good example. For instance, diffusion, dispersion, and refraction, appear to be the same thing, yet they are defined and applied differently. Also, the concepts of wavelength and frequencies are made interchangeable without explanation when describing light and sound waves; this is possible, of course, because light and sound travel at a constant speed, easily provable with a single equation; I have yet to see this revealed except in my own writing. A single approach to the study of waves is necessary, and uniform rules need to be followed with respect to each kind of wave so that students can conceptualized about waves rather than have to memorize seemingly contradictory facts to succeed at test taking. The same criticism applies to the ideas of kinetic and potential radiation especially in relation to thermal energy. In fact this last issue goes back to waves, as thermal radiation is that of infrared waves; go check for yourself if you don't believe how confused things are at the moment.
Ultimately I think that this reference needs to simplify science knowledge to the very basic conceptualizations so that the teachers can easily integrate pure science into the projects that students will do that reflect their own experiences in the world around them. Because the most successful students, or the ones to best self-actualize, come to their chosen careers earliest, it is important to allow them to bring Science to their chosen interests so that the can develop as individuals, and contribute meaningfully to their class groups. Since this includes all students, not just the successful ones (as district boards are biased to support), then all different aspects of science need to promoted: those of pure experimentation, and those of the necessary community support.
The community support feature, which includes documentation, presentation and communication, is of course not addressed in the tests, as the testing culture is about weeding out the weak for the promotion of "human capital," so we will not find it in my present references.
Another focus that is missing is technology, and especially computer communications technolgy -- the most important feature of the world we live in today. Exactly why this is missing presents itself as a mystery; but investigating regressive tendencies, especially with respect to those of district boards, we can trace their motivations to a single desire: the top down control of young humans for the resource centralization of capital, which is now global. At the heart of global capital is computer communication, and at the heart of computer communication is the Microsoft Corporation; all boards, not only district boards, are beholden to this central control operation; it seems the whole world is.
Because of the information technology laws, all of which include criminal punishment, no student can legally take apart a proprietary computer operating system. Of course any student who has the skills and perseverance can work with the Linux operating system (and its GNU shell), but after my working with Linux for so many years, I feel Linux has passed its time as a viable contribution, and it has also failed to support its user base with the exceptions of mega-organizations, such as Google and the NOAA US national weather service.
What is coming over the horizon, however, is rescue in the form of the L4 operating system, which is an evolution of the systems similar to the system underlying Apple's OSX operating system. Technically, it is not an operating system in the sense that XP or Linux is, but a microkernel upon which functional systems can be built. My final reference work will introduce technology for kids, and in this will use non-proprietary software systems. Non-proprietary (sometimes called open source, free and open, or public domain), are necessary for education so that the kids successful with technology can integrate these various levels of systems holistically into the rest of their science exploration as they see fit, not as a dominating corporation, such as Microsoft, dictates.
The final feature that I think is unfortunately missing from middle school Science is that of social science. Social science is studied as social studies, but from what I have seen the topics of social studies are better viewed as current events. Social Science has become a significant branch of Science, and the Social Sciences are increasingly affecting the Scientific Method.
Science, society, and children
Society needs scientists, and every student needs to have a positive exposure to science in middle school; exposure to science in high school is often too late. There are also social benefits from science learning in real life. Students can learn to leverage inquiry to understand the circumstances in their lives, and make proper life's choices based on solid knowledge independent of influences around them that may not necessarily be helping them, or may even be hurting their chances for success.With science they will have a better chance in having a good job.
My goal for this middle school science wiki is to create a framework that supplies future and practicing teachers with a reference of the factual knowledge necessary for taking teacher exams.
The major testing for for middle school science teachers in the US is the Praxis II exam, which has provided the frame work for these study pages. Another test is the GACE exam from National Evaluation Systems in Amherst, MA. I have synopsized their framework, which seems to be less detailed than the Praxis II exam, and somewhat better organized. The GACE framework seems to be better organized as well. The GACE testing information is released with a "free for non-commercial use by educators" license. My goal however is to create for these articles completely original writing as a reference for group learning projects.
A difference between the GACE and Pr axis II exams is the approach to physics and chem. In the GACE exam, the reliance on pure chemistry lessened and chemistry is combined with physics as physical sciences. To me this makes sense, as there are aspects of both that are shared. Even in the Praxis II framework there is a section called "basic" science that contains physics concepts that are more relevant to chemistry.
Furthermore, the very definitions of chemistry and physics are becoming so interrelated that an interdisciplinary approach can easily spread to include Earth and Space Science. Physics goes to Space studies, as physics covers such concepts as gravity and nuclear reactions, and chemistry can go to Earth Science, and even biology, where an excellent example is the study of the water cycle with its chemical effects on physical planet, and its support fr the life cycles of life in general. An example of this interdisciplinary nature is "Physics and Chemistry of the Earth."
This brings me to the conclusion that there needs to be a major restructuring of the factual information content away from the Praxis II format towards the GACE format. Ultimately, the structure will be dictated by the students themselves, and the factual information content will be wrapped in the projects they generate structured by their own relationship with the world around them.
Here are the content pages; they are temporarily in Google docs as, so far, only one is completely original writing. Please contact me to collaborate on any of these pages, Google docs allows multiple editors, and the editors do not have to be Gmail users.
As the development of the reference material evolves, my goal will be to wrap this learning in conceptual framework that help students relate the world they see around them to their learning, and hopefully develop for all of them enthusiasm for science. The effect of the frame work should resemble a Russian matryoshka nesting doll, by allowing students to cyclically increase their understanding of each topic as they return to it throughout their learning careers.
By starting the discussions at a very high level, I will reorganize the concepts to gradually create the learning paths that add more and more detail to each of the topics. These topics can possibly be introduced by the students themselves based on their personal experiences.
This structure should follow a natural evolution of the children's learning, perhaps parallel to the development of science through history, and also template for lesson planning that allows students to develop their own learning framework.
The matryoshka doll is becoming a common analogous symbol for the evolution of empathy and morality from their animal roots. Childhood growth through inquiry is of course an example of evolution, as it follows the path of science as experimental science corrected long held misconceptions.
Learning Science, The Scientific Method, and the Construction of Knowledge
- The intrusion of social sciences into the scientific method, or perhaps model, is making a fuss. The ivory tower is giving way to the action research model; action research initially recruited prostitutes as researchers in the research of their sub-culture giving them the ability to construct the "steps" for their escape from their self-imposed dangers.
- The difficulty in writing about education for youngsters is in making the writing applicable to both the teachers as well as the youngsters. Perhaps the scientific method information can move to its own page, leaving behind something kids can discuss in class.
The required learning for this reads:
- Scientific methods of problem solving
- Scientific facts, models, theories and laws
- Science process skills in experiments and investigations, and to solve problems
- Experimental design
Working here is the classical approach where observations lead to a hypothesis, and a model is created that can be used to predict future behaviors, which leads in turn to the development of a theory that can be subjected to peer review. Peer review is many times what it sounds like; mutual support amongst scientists with similar views, or perhaps mutual fund raising goals.
This will not, in my opinion, create enthusiasm in kids, except in exceptionally strange ones. Far more useful would be a taxonomic approach -- one which anchors inquiry and explanations with the basics that kids have already identified as they are coming into science learning. Explaining questions in such a way that the new questions created by the explanations are themselves an achievement will give them direction for their future studies.
Here is a more socially constructed model for the scientific method that stresses elimination of bias and enlists community in scientific development:
The goals of science
- To develop unified explanations of phenomena using the scientific method that are applicable everywhere
- Use objectivity and honesty to control or assess all variables to prevent biases and mistakes from skewing the experimental process.
- Rely on verifiable evidence and repeat experiments to prove models
- Look for problems in existing science for opportunities solidify existing knowledge and create more inquiry.
- Create community and communication to exchange ideas and collaborate.
Techniques for problem solving
- Observing and describing - obtain information about the environment
- Classifying - systematically impose on collected information of objects or events / by size, shape, or color
- Measuring - to gather, analyze, and interpret scientific data
- Communicating - reports, discussions / cooperative teamwork / raise points for investigation or discussion, problems
- Hypothesizing - generalizations to explain large number of events, immediate or eventual testing, explaining an observation in terms of previous experience
- Designing experiments - planning data-gathering to create hypothesis for testing
- Controlling variables - controlled conditions for observation and experimentation
- Consensus - reaching agreement
- Hypothesis is a assumed to be already proved
- Data is assumed to be false if it doesn't support expected results
- Bias, or assumptions, introduces flaws into experiments
- Systematic errors go unnoticed and are repeated skewing meta-data
- Equipment or conditions are not adequate
- Design experiments collaboratively to eliminate errors of assumption.
- Handle all data in the same ways so as not to exclude data that does not support the hypothesis or specific ideas.
- Systematic errors can be located by estimating quantitatively results in parallel.
- Share experimentation responsibilities across communities to cancel out potential biases.
- Use different experimental setups to isolate sources of systematic errors caused by equipment characteristics.
- Allow for time and communication to mature and reinforce data quality and eliminate biases.
Earth and Space Science
The study of Earth and Space Science may be the best launching point for integrating required learnings into students' conceptions of the world around them. Developing a feel for the effects of the universe, such as gravity, in mathematical terms, will steer students in the direction of learning about one of the greatest scientist in history, Albert Einstein. Einstein often reflected to Humanists that his theories were the product of subjective conceptualization, not the product of mathematical derivations.
Students can bring to class knowledge of the Earth and Space as they have observed it through various media: television, movies and the internet or through personal observations made during exploration of the world around them.
"Where to start?" in biology should be a concern for teachers. Biology exists on multiple interrelating levels more so than any other science, except possibly psycho- and sociology.
Key to understanding is the life of a cell, and the different kinds of cells. Why this is all relevant is because these low-level life forms make up the bigger pictures of what is plainly visible everywhere: life. Like Earth and Space Science, Biology has the advantage that all student's have conceptions about life that they can bring to class and express, giving teachers anchors form which to launch learning.
Possibly of great help here is evolution. In the evolutionary chart, the greatest species, the ones at the ends of their evolutionary paths, the species we see everyday, can find their basic components in their evolutionary histories. By explaining where typically sophisticated species come from, it is easy to create a path to microbial basics. From there a discussion of the details on the microscopic level is relevant to the students' basic observations in life.
Biology for me presents multiple difficulties, not the least of which is that biology is the discipline I never studied beyond the barest requirements.
Physics is quantitative science that can be integrated into the learning if it is supported by math learning. Students are certainly aware of the work of gravity from their everyday experience, feeling drain of energy after a long workout or playing games. Some maybe award of the planets and the universe is held together by gravity. Physics tells the story of infinitesimally small, such as elementary particles, to the colossally large, such as the universe. If taught right, it can captivate the imagination of learners. Students should also be made awareness of the physics behind engineering, from suspension bridge to rocket back to the smartphone, as common applications of physics.
Both topics can implement math, and a practical approach to technology; a hands on exploration of the machines in everyday life can help students embed the laws of mechanics and electricity and magnetism into their basic neurology to make them available throughout life. Knowledge of these laws may help them be critical when dealing with technology, and self-reliant when repairing broken technology.
The challenge to become competent in physic is that the student must simultaneously master abstract thinking, best developed from hands on exploration, and master the basic skills of mathematics, and the imagination to apply what is learned. Hence there are three components to master the learning of physics:
- Understanding of the basics of physical concepts (there are only few of them) - Ability to transfer the concepts into mathematics (so that related equations that tell a story) - Ability to generalize quantitative concepts (the story) and apply it to situation that is not taught before
This post a tough challenge for students who are not well prepared in mathematics and those who got so used to rote learning. Once these three are mastered, physics is enjoyable; but it is rather hill that all learners has to climb.
Chemistry seems to be loved or hated, and also chemistry is more distant from everyday life than other areas of learning. The students that like chemistry seem to like the analytic nature of, for instance, balancing equations.
Finding observable everyday examples that can be used to wrap more esoteric learning may be a challenge; it may be better to try to wrap practical chemistry exercises within other learnings.
Math for middle school science
Math is naturally important to science; students not proficient in math are going to have difficulty enhancing their learning to the point where their assumptions can be proved and can become solidified knowledge. Depending on the resources a community has and the educational backgrounds of students' parents', math skills will vary among students and communities. When students arrive at this level of learning, they may not have the necessary math skills, and it is very likely that districts will try to force the learning on these students through didactic drill practices. They may even, for this reason, attempt to deny students who have not had the necessary math experience the benefits of engaging in scientific inquiry.
A far better approach is to help students by developing their enthusiasm for science. As they begin to learn the scientific process of explaining their observations, they can then learn how quantify their new learning with examples of analytic math. If, or when, they become troubled with the math, the class can digress and, perhaps mutually, fill in the missing learning.
Math requirements have to be an early consideration in planning science learning, partly to discover the students' levels of expertise, but mostly to be able to know when and where to apply a required math learning to help a student develop a scientific concept. If a student feels the benefit of a math learning; if it supports the student's understanding of the world, then that student will very likely carry that learning not just through to graduation, but through life.
Benefits and impacts of science, and the history of Science
Students come to study science with an already well-developed relationship with the world around them. Generally speaking, the scientific conceptions of the world (sometimes called misconceptions) parallel the conceptions of nature scientists have developed in previous centuries. Student growth parallels the evolution of the understanding of science itself.
I have found that the study of technology is in many ways the study of humanity, as science seems wrap all the material and social benefits of human society, as well as its failures.
The information structure that our society is built on seems to have been handed down directly from the ancient Egyptian empire (Mumford, Technics and Civilization). The economic structure of the world, now called globalism, seems to resemble the ancient Roman structure's equally faitfully.
The word "project" from project Science is loaded.
I think I can put the issues that inspire project Science in bullet form:
- kids develop a relationship with the world as they become more aware of it
- as they begin to socialize and interrelate, this relationship develops into a shared conception
- when they get to school, and teachers try to straighten them on certain misconceptions,
- they think the teachers are crazy
Children will tell you what you want to hear, but they think they are really being taught patience with elders. As soon as they are back with their friends, the misconceptions are restored, and all is well from their perspective.
The project, or group, science, strategy is to allow them to discover the realities of science on their own by providing them with much the same equipment that our early scientists had, such as prisms, telescopes, microscopes. Their misconceptions are not actually wrong so much as "intelligently wrong," and often the entire community holds the same misconceptions. Here is were the true value is; as the students develop scientific technique and learn how things really are, they go back home and tell their parents what they did. In this way the entire community gets educated -- now that's value.
Science today is seeing a rise in the social science; as we apply scientific technique to social situations, we are far better able to get from these situations the kinds of results we are looking for. When kids do this, they can better experiment with life and conclude earlier what it is that they are good at, and what they like to do. This gives them factors better chances of getting the highest potential out of life, of self-actualizing.