A LOOK AT . . .
WHEN I was a young child in the 1950s, science wasn't a subject taught in my elementary school. The teachers focused on reading, writing, and arithmetic. At that time, home economics and shop classes played a more prominent role than social studies and science instruction.
All that changed when the Soviet Union launched a satellite by the name of Sputnik on Oct. 5, 1957. Suddenly, science was added to the curriculum of every school in the nation-and the space race had officially begun.
Today's science curriculum focuses on more than the process skills of observation, inference, and experimentation. An emphasis on laboratory science is included in what is commonly called the hands-on approach to science learning, in which scientific knowledge is combined with reasoning and thinking skills.
Science teaching today is also shaped by the National Science Education Standards, produced by the National Research Council in 1995 and published in 1996. The standards divide K-12 science education into eight categories:
* Unifying concepts and processes in science
* Science as inquiry
* Physical science
* Life science
* Earth and space science
* Science and technology
* Science in personal and social perspective
* History and nature of science
The very nature of science as an ever-changing discipline requires timely and updated tools to deliver instruction within the science classroom. Technology programs provide the perfect solution to engage today's students in scientific inquiry.
This article covers science software in the categories of standards-driven teaching, simulations, inquiry, and science tools. This piece is not intended to provide a thorough review of the science resources available to educators; these products are examples of programs of these types designed for K-8 students.
Software designed to investigate curriculum topics related to Earth, space, life and physical sciences helps students toward the mastery of national science education standards.
The Discovery Channel School Life, Earth, and Physical Science programs feature simulations, videos, libraries, interactive laboratories, and multimedia studios for reports and presentations. Hundreds of simulated lab experiments can be performed in the programs' virtual labs. More than 40 CD titles are available for grades 6-12; all include a Teacher's Guide and student worksheets. Single copy prices range from $50-$60. Windows 2000, XP and Macintosh OSX. Discovery Channel School, 877/900-8830 or http://school.discovery.com/.
GeoMediaTM for grades 4-9 introduces more than 150 Earth science concepts through topics related to earthquakes, the water and carbon cycles, geologic time scales, environmental change, the greenhouse effect, and understanding maps. The program was developed by InterNetwork Media in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Mac/Win CDROM. $40-single copy. InterNetwork Media, http:// www.educationalsoftware4science.com/.
The Learn About Science series for students in grades pre-K-2 covers basic science concepts with a look at animals, astronomy, dinosaurs, the human body, matter, plants, senses, simple machines, and the weather. The nine programs guide young learners through activities related to note taking, journal writing, organizing information, keeping records, and using the skills of observation and sequencing. $59-single program, single copy; $429-complete collection of nine titles, single copy. Sunburst, 800/321-7511 or http:11 www.sunburst.com/.
Pinball Science for ages 8-13 reinforces knowledge of scientific concepts. The program is a companion to David Macaulay's "The Way Things Work" series. Correct answers to more than 300 questions on three difficulty levels about force, gravity, and energy enable students to build a working pinball game. Answers can be researched directly from the question screen, making learning ongoing. …