Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Editor's Corner

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Editor's Corner

Article excerpt

Big Ideas

Science curricula are often criticized for being a mile wide and an inch deep. In an age of ever-expanding scientific knowledge, teachers can be forgiven for wanting to expose students to both the traditional science content--itself difficult to cover in a school year--and the exciting new advances that help make science interesting and relevant. The result can be a frenetic race through disconnected topics and isolated facts. Students can sometimes feel, to borrow a phrase from American author Elbert Hubbard, that their study of science is "just one damned thing after another."

The recently released public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (NRC 2012) explicitly addresses this dilemma, noting that "The continuing expansion of scientific knowledge makes it impossible to teach all the ideas related to a given discipline in exhaustive detail during the K-12 years." The NGSS goes on to state that "given the cornucopia of information available today virtually at a touch--people live, after all, in an information age--an important role of science education is not to teach 'all the facts' but rather to prepare students with sufficient core knowledge so that they can later acquire additional information on their own" (NRC 2012, p. 3).

Both the NGSS and A Framework for K-12 Science Education therefore focus on a limited number of core ideas and crosscutting concepts--what I think of as the Big Ideas of science. …

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