Education (Elementary and Secondary)
Middle School, Ecosystems, GSEs, Inquiry
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Evaluation of Rhode Island Middle School Science Kits in Regards to Rhode Island Grade Span Expectations
Faculty Sponsor: Jay Fogleman, Education
The Rhode Island Department of Education provides a set of Grade Span Expectations (GSEs) that outline major ideas in science, including physical, life, and earth and space science. Students in Rhode Island schools are expected to be able to demonstrate understanding of each GSE in order to graduate high school with proficiency in science. Educators do not always have the time to “unpack” the GSEs that line up with the grade level they teach. Unpacking a GSE refers to determining what prior knowledge students should possess, what misconceptions students may have, and what students need to be able to do in order to demonstrate understanding of the material the particular GSE covers.
Rhode Island middle school science teachers are provided with kits that contain all the materials needed for a particular unit. These kits have lessons designed to engage students in mostly teacher directed activities that address each GSE for that particular grade level. However, many kits do not address the misconceptions students may have about a certain topic or provide enough background information about the material being taught. Therefore teachers must supplement these kits with filler lessons that address these issues. Experienced teachers can do this easily and almost naturally, but relatively new science teachers may struggle with deciding what sorts of instruction to intertwine within the lessons of the kits. I have taken a common middle school science kit entitled “Ecosystems” and unpacked each of the five separate GSEs aligned with it to determine what information that students should have is missing from the kits.
The second portion of my project examines the effectiveness of the Ecosystems kit in preparing students for the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) exam. This exam tests thirteen progressive levels of inquiry and I have found that the Ecosystems kit is lacking in regards to exposing students to a wide range of inquiry-based activities to adequately prepare them for this particular assessment. I have compiled lessons that can be added to the Ecosystems kit to more effectively address each of the thirteen levels of inquiry.
The products and results of this project will be displayed on the Rhode Island Science Teacher wikispace. My hope is that this work will be useful to both current and incoming science teachers.