Science4Us (S4U) is a curriculum designed to address the long-standing and deepening deficit in science skills and interests created by the generally weak and often non-existent science education provided in early elementary schools across the country.
Science4Us is an interactive technology-based curriculum for K-2nd grade students designed to deliver an exemplary science education within the realities of the American education system over the next decade Science4Us is based on the 5E Instructional model in which for each of the 28 modules, students will engage, explore, explain, elaborate or evaluate with the materials. Science4Us focuses equal attention on delivering a student experience and on providing a teacher support, training, and information system. The online curriculum components were produced with television-quality audio visual production values. The materials include interactive exercises, often scaffolded so that the students can progressively explore and master key concepts. The curriculum is composed of animated stories, interactive lessons, videos, animated simulations, videos of real world experiments and phenomenon, casual games, stories, music, and points to discuss or ponder. Since the target audience is primarily pre- or emergent readers, S4U is developed with systematic voice overs and repeat buttons throughout for those moments when students lose concentration and missed a question or instruction. The curriculum supports multiple usage models for whole class instruction, small groups, or individual one-to-one independent work. Science4Us is available both through the web or as an app.
While the curriculum is entirely technology delivered, there are <how many> digital activities and <how many> hands-on activities. This allows teachers to provide real world hands-on activities to ensure a strong connection between the conceptual and real world. Each student’s progress and records are systematically recorded and provided to the teacher including a digital notebook which includes the student’s notes, predictions, observations, and results.
Science4Us was developed using modern best practices including a focus on big cross cutting concepts and sophisticated reasoning to build depths of knowledge. Because cross curricular study is a best practice, the curriculum is infused with literacy and math skill building exercises. At times in the early grades, the math and science standards heavily overlap such as in measurement, data analysis, and data portrayal. In these cases, Science4Us provides not just practice but instruction that directly maps to key CCSS objectives. Of the over 350 online exercises, about thirty percent directly relate to practicing key literacy and math skills.
Science4Us Version1.0 was developed from 2010 through 2013 with a team of over a dozen full time educators and developers. Science4Us is built around science standards and has been vetted by a McREL efficacy study. The educational model was studied and iteratively refined by a Dept of Education IES SBIR Phase 1 research study. Both of these studies, the first year of experience in the market place, and a literature review all reveal one overarching challenge for Science4Us or for any science curriculum targeted at early elementary school.
The problem is that most schools and teachers are under extreme pressure for short term measurable progress and success on literacy and math. Thus the teaching of science is considered a luxury that they cannot afford. More specifically, at the operational level in schools, science is considered a distraction from the mission-critical need to improve core literacy and math skills. While Science4Us builds these skills through practice, this cross curricular link has been repeatedly discussed by Science4Us users and potential users and the route to Science4Us having a much larger impact.
The goal of the Science4Us SBIR project will be to develop, assess, and refine a model for S4U Version 2 in which CCSS literacy objectives are explicitly reinforced and assessed. Evaluations will track student progress in both science and literacy, providing important data that will to inform subsequent instruction.
There are some key concepts to emphasize:
- The desired outcome of the SBIR is a curriculum which schools can justify using as a time-effective supplementary product to build CCSS literacy skills. It will explicitly build (but not introduce) and evaluate key CCSS literacy skills.
- S4U Version 1 was built on a cross curricular approach and an ambitious model of building higher order thinking skills so this shift to a focus on CCSS extends inherent elements of the S4U curriculum. It is not a superficial renaming or correlation.
- The effectiveness of S4U as a science curriculum following a 5E Instructional Model will be maintained: the major change in the curriculum is to extend the cross curricular practice from the fourth E across the other four “Es” through-out the curriculum.