Science is an epistemological mode; a way of knowing. As the world becomes increasingly technical, citizens must become more scientifically literate and more knowledgeable, in order to fully participate in many aspects of life. The benefits of scientific literacy are both personal and communal in that the individual and the society both gain from increased scientific knowledge. The pace of scientific advancement has become so rapid that developing scientific literacy without training is challenging. For this reason, the importance of science education has risen in direct proportion to the impact scientific discoveries have had on peoples’ lives. Most contemporary people cannot move through the day without interacting with the products of scientific invention. To maximize the experience of those products and to realize their benefits, scientific literacy and knowledge must be highly developed for all citizens.
All scientific disciplines share a common method for testing hypotheses in order to gain knowledge; however, the range of topics that can be studied in a scientific way is quite diverse. In order to develop true scientific literacy and content knowledge, a student must be exposed to five general areas of study: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth Science, and Environmental Science. Earth Science and Environmental Science require a basic understanding of Chemistry, Biology, and Physics to be fully appreciated. The North Allegheny Science Curriculum with standards-based content has been developed with this sequence in mind. The driving principle is
that a strong foundation begins at the elementary level and continues through the secondary grades. This foundation of scientific literacy is rooted in standards-based content examined at appropriate levels, intermingled with application and real-world assessment. The end-result of this literacy will be full representation by graduates in the areas of pure science, applied technology, engineering, and many other related fields.
The manner in which the Science Curriculum should be delivered varies with the age of the student and the sophistication of the material being presented. Students have a natural curiosity about the world around them that can be cultivated into an interest in science and technology at the secondary grade levels. In order to maximize learning, the curriculum and instruction must be research-based, continuously evaluated, and appropriately updated as new approaches in pedagogy become available. There is a large body of evidence that shows the benefits of teaching science through inquiry and differentiated instructional techniques. Through the use of technology, problem-based learning, and cross-discipline STEM activities, the Science Department will promote skills such as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity among our students. By combining discipline-specific content along with the teaching of process skills, North Allegheny students will have the opportunity to truly become scientifically literate with the ability to apply their knowledge base in an ever-changing world.
In May 2017, representatives of the science department presented recommendations to the North Allegheny School Board based upon an extensive 12 month review of the science curriculum. The recommendations that resulted from this study include:
Recommendation #1: Science Department Philosophy - Focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and 21st Century learning skills such as creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking skills.
Recommendation #2: K-5 Science Curriculum - Emphasize the teaching of process skills by incorporating NGSS as they intersect with all areas of the PA Academic Standards resulting in a resequenced K-5 Science Curriculum.
Recommendation #3: Middle School Science Curriculum - Analyze curriculum alignment both horizontally and vertically to ensure an effectively spiraled curriculum.
Recommendation #4: Grades 9 and 10 Science Courses - Realignment to assure more consistent and clear course choices.
Recommendation #5: Grades 11 and 12 Chemistry - Analyze curriculum alignment both horizontally and vertically to ensure an effectively spiraled curriculum between Physical Science, Academic Chemistry, and Honors Chemistry courses.
Recommendation #6: Environmental Awareness - Develop curriculum and activities that will increase environmental awareness of both students and teachers in grades K-12.
Recommendation #7: Textbooks and Equipment - Design resources using open source documents as primary resources whenever possible. Provide systematic and ongoing professional development on the use of new equipment, apps, and technology and also provide annual maintenance to keep equipment and resources current.