Academic journal article Science Scope

A Framework for Integrating Science, Engineering, and Literacy

Academic journal article Science Scope

A Framework for Integrating Science, Engineering, and Literacy

Article excerpt

In this article, we provide a framework designed to increase students' comprehension of texts as they engage in crosscutting science and engineering practices. Using this framework (outlined in Figure 1), we have created lessons that asked students to compare the performance of competing engineering designs, such as different solar ovens or different rockets. These engineering designs serve as an anchoring phenomenon, or a "real-world occurrence... that can elicit students' prior knowledge and be explained by the application of different science principles" (Campbell and Nielson 2016, p. 34). After observing how these designs lead to different outcomes, students make inferences regarding why each design works the way that it does, and they confirm or revise their inferences by reading a scientific text. Finally, they apply the principles from the reading to create their own engineering designs and explain the designs' performance in accordance with scientific principles.

As noted in Figure 1, this framework follows recommendations to support students' comprehension before, during, and after the reading of a text (Gillis and MacDougal 2007). The following sample lesson, which draws from our work in middle school classrooms, illustrates how this framework can support engineering and literacy in science classrooms aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States 2013).

Using the framework: A classroom example

To teach heat transfer, middle school science teacher Mr. Clarke places four different solar ovens, featured in Figures 2-5, out in the sunlight for an hour prior to the science lesson. During class, students put on safety goggles, place three large marshmallows in each of these ovens, and observe how the marshmallows melt over the course of five minutes. After they note that Solar Oven A melts the marshmallows the fastest, Mr. Clarke leads them in a whole-class discussion about why they think Solar Oven A is the most effective design. On the board, he writes, "Why did Solar Oven A melt the marshmallows the most quickly?"

As they infer why Solar Oven A melted the marsh-mallows the most quickly, some students note that the marshmallows were directly touching the hot metal pan in Solar Oven A, whereas the marshmallows did not touch the hot metal pan in Solar Oven B. Mr. Clarke summarizes their comments and writes "direct contact between marshmallow and hot pan" on the board. Other students note that the aluminum foil "reflected more Sun" toward the marshmallows in Solar Oven A as compared to Solar Oven C. Mr. Clarke summarizes their comments and writes "aluminum foil reflected sunlight toward marshmallows" on the board. Still other students argue that, because there was no plastic wrap on top of Solar Oven D, the heat was able to "get out," versus Solar Oven A, which had plastic wrap to "keep the heat in." Mr. Clarke summarizes their comments and writes "plastic wrap kept heat in the oven" (see Figure 6).

FIGURE 1: A framework for connecting science, engineering, and literacy

Before reading: Making inferences about an anchoring phenomenon

* Students observe competing engineering designs that incorporate
specific traits related to the targeted scientific concepts.

* Students infer why certain designs performed better than others.
These inferences are listed on the board.

After reading: Applying scientific principles through engineering

* Working under specified criteria and constraints, students design
their own version of the device used in the anchoring phenomenon.

* While adhering to explicit safety procedures, students build, test,
and evaluate the performance of their designs. They use scientific
principles to explain why some designs work better than others.

After students make inferences about why different solar ovens performed the way they did, Mr. Clarke distributes an informational text about heat transfer through radiation, conduction, and convection. …

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