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Narrowing the Gulf between the Practices of Science and the Elementary School Science Classroom

Kathleen E. Metz
The Elementary School Journal
Vol. 109, No. 2 (November 2008), pp. 138-161
DOI: 10.1086/590523
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/590523
Page Count: 24
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Narrowing the Gulf between the Practices of Science
and the Elementary School Science Classroom
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Abstract

Abstract The American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Science have emphasized the need to design curriculum such that students do not simply learn about science, but also do science. Although obviously the knowledge-building practices among scientists and children in elementary school science classrooms will always be quite different, the gulf between them needs to be reduced. This article considers features of the knowledge-building practices of science that need to be more adequately embodied in the elementary school science classroom. I also delineate instructional design principles to support this vision of scientific practices in elementary classrooms, design principles that have formed the base of my classroom-based research. Three vignettes of first-grade classes engaged in activities grounded on these principles, drawn from the project database of curriculum enactment, constitute illustration and existence proof of the nature of the scientific practices in which primary-grade children can engage and the power of their thinking therein. Posttest interview data from 2 cohorts of first graders who participated in project curricula provide additional warrants of the capacity of even first graders to participate fruitfully in these knowledge-building practices.

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