How do we convey the vastness of God and his creation through our teaching? How do we encourage curiosity and wonder of creation? How do we integrate best practices in both science education and Christian education into our teaching and learning here at WSCS?
These are questions that we as a staff have thought deeply about as we’ve considered changes to our science curriculum and teaching practices here at WSCS for the past several years, because at its core, nature reveals facts about God and gives evidence of God’s existence (also known as General Revelation).
Romans 1:19-20 says: “What may be known of God is manifest in them for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” Through the study of scientific laws (such as gravity or the law of conservation of mass) we can learn that God is orderly and a God of harmony, not one of chaos.
Beginning in the fall of 2017, WSCS will be implementing a brand new science curriculum based on the Michigan K-12 content standards, which are Next Gen Science Standards tweaked to fit Michigan; for example, standards that include knowledge of the Great Lakes.
The Michigan K-12 Science Standards are not a curriculum. They are a set of standards that tell us what information must be covered at each grade level but they do not tell teachers what materials to use or how to teach. Here at WSCS, we’ve adopted a new K-8 science curriculum developed by Foss.
This new science curriculum features hands-on “kits” and these kits are precisely one of the key reasons our science committee ultimately selected this curriculum. It encourages inquiry-based learning and will help us move forward to teach science in the most current way.
The most current science teaching says that we must teach children to think like scientists and to increase scientific literacy. The best way to do this is to get students doing as much hands on science as possible. Great baseball players do not get that way by reading a book about baseball. They get loads of hands-on practice. This science curriculum is the same idea.
With this new curriculum, our students will spend more time “doing” science and being a scientist and they will have many hands-on learning opportunities. There will be fewer worksheets as students spend more time recording data, making observations, predicting, and researching via journals. This means that you will likely see less “science work” -- packets, worksheets, etc. -- coming home.
This will also integrate with our outdoor education initiatives. Outdoor ed focuses on experience, and this curriculum targets that experiential element of science education, which will make connections to outdoor ed easier to facilitate. For instance, labs with an indoor focus can be moved outdoors and perhaps we can also make observations of natural phenomena in our own backyards and weave those experiences in with this new curriculum.
The Foss curriculum is, however, not Christian curriculum. WSCS has also purchased some supplemental materials to use in conjunction with the Foss curriculum that reflects a Christian worldview and perspective on science education. Middle school science teacher Mr. Jon Oosterman and I spent two days at the Christian Educators Science Academy (CSESA) at the Van Andel Institute learning about highly effective, Christ-centered science teaching. We discussed things like how to make sure our teaching of science aligns with our schools’ mission statements.
Our full staff will be spending some of our professional development time this spring focused on preparation for teaching the new science curriculum next year.
This type of learning and instruction puts problem solving in the students’ hands and is a higher and more complex form of learning than just memorizing facts.
It allows students to learn concepts and apply knowledge in a complex way; these are not just science skills -- they are life skills! This new curriculum will challenge students to make observations, draw conclusions, interpret data, and think critically. Guiding them to do that through the lens of faith and Scripture is the opportunity we have here at WSCS. We’re excited for our students to have the opportunity to learn in these ways!