On December 15th, 2010, representatives of the science department presented recommendations to the North Allegheny School Board based upon an extensive 18 month review of the science curriculum. The dominant themes in the report include:
1) Inquiry based science education
2) Staff development
3) Technology Integration
4) Increased focus on environmental education
(To see the list of recommendations presented to the School Board, Click Here)
The following philosophy statement was submitted to the School Board:
Philosophy Statement: Science is an epistemological mode; a way of knowing. As the world becomes increasingly technical, its citizens must become more scientifically literate, 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 extremely difficult. For this reason, the importance of science education has risen in direct proportion to the impact scientific discoveries have had on our lives. Most contemporary people cannot move through the day without interacting, to a large degree, with the products of scientific invention. So as to maximize the experience of those products and to realize their benefits, scientific literacy 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, a student must be exposed to five general areas of study: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth Science, and Environmental Science. The final two require a basic understanding of the first three to be fully appreciated. The North Allegheny Science curriculum has been developed with this sequence in mind. The driving principle is that a foundation in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics examined at appropriate levels of depth and breadth at different grade levels, intermingled with their application through the study of Earth, Space and the Environment, will make it highly probable that scientific literacy will result for our students. The end-result of this literacy will be full representation by our graduates in the areas of pure science, applied technology, engineering and many other related fields.
The manner in which the curriculum should be delivered varies with the age of the student and the sophistication of the material being presented. In order to maximize learning, the curriculum design and delivery must be research-based, continuously evaluated and appropriately updated as new approaches in pedagogy become available. As a student moves through the science curriculum, the emphasis on learning process skills, while always important, must also allow for the specialization gained in learning discipline-specific content. Certainly, the large body of evidence supporting the effectiveness of inquiry-based learning in science education must be reflected in the classrooms of our district. Additionally, the use of technology to effectively and efficiently transmit constantly changing scientific knowledge, while also promoting high interest levels by our students, must be regularly evaluated.