A new generation of science curriculum materials are being developed across all levels of K–12 education in an effort to meet the ambitious vision of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The NGSS recasts science proficiency as not only what students know, but also how they can use and apply what they know to make sense of the natural world and design solutions to problems.
The need for high-quality curriculum materials is especially great in the early elementary grades where there has been a paucity of materials that provide the necessary language and literacy support for all young students, including those with linguistically diverse backgrounds, to engage in rich science learning. Promising new curriculum materials are needed, along with research-based evidence on the efficacy of literacy-rich NGSS designed curricula.
WestEd, with funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), is leading an efficacy study of a new first grade science curriculum.
The curriculum, part of the commercially available K–5 Amplify Science program, was developed by Lawrence Hall of Science with prior funding from IES. The curriculum comprises three units — life science, physical science, and Earth and space science — that take an integrated approach to supporting both science and literacy development and are designed to be accessible to English language learners. The curriculum aims to help teachers ensure their students meet the NGSS as well as the Common Core English Language Arts and Literacy Standards.
The curriculum package includes physical materials for hands-on investigations, classroom sets of student books and big books for each unit, as well as lessons that engage students in learning through reading, writing, talking, and doing science — all in an integrated approach.
Methodology and Intended Outcomes
The study’s goals are to understand classroom implementation and the impact of the first grade curriculum on student achievement and teachers’ instructional practice in light of the NGSS.
WestEd science education researchers, in partnership with researchers from LFC Research and SRI International, collaborated with the Lawrence Hall of Science and participating school districts to plan and conduct the study in first grade classrooms. The efficacy study is a randomized controlled trial that is comparing classrooms that receive the first grade curriculum materials and professional development with classrooms in a “business as usual” (control) condition in several large school districts nationwide.
This research will help us understand how to better support teachers in implementing science education in early elementary classrooms. Findings from this independent study will provide insight about the promise of literacy-rich early elementary science curricula for helping ensure the academic success of young students in our nation’s increasingly diverse schools.