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Hello,

 

I will be teaching Middle School Science for the third time this upcoming school year. However, I will like to structure our curriculum so that we have a spiraling curriculum. Currently, sixth grade learns Life Science, seventh grade learns Earth Science, and eighth grade learns Physical Science. This is makes building on prior knowledge difficult since they do not cover each part of science every year.

 

I was wondering if any of you have a layout of how you structure your middle school science curriculum? As I am working on restructuring, I am trying to figure out what standards to teach each year. I am in the state of Illinois. And the standards are listed as middle school standards. They are not broken down by grade level. Any suggestions and/or examples will be extremely helpful! :-)

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Jurema,

While there are certainly philosophical arguments for both sides of the spiraling curriculum debate, I would look first to your district and state curriculum outcomes for guidance.  You may wish to look at the new Science Frameworks as well.  Much of this today is driven by the tested outcomes at different grade levels and if not tested each year, which outcomes are most abundant during the year of testing.  

As a middle school teacher, I always looked for the interdisciplinary reoccuring themes.  Do my teammates have outcomes that marry nicely with mine?  Novels with STEM Themes, social studies field trips with STEM connections, reoccuring calendar items that lend themselves to certain units, etc...  Are there practical prerequisites for some of the skills or content?  For example, should my students have certain math skills before they entertain some of the physics calculations?  Should one should about know life processes prior to environmental studies?  

This is a good exercise for curriculum mapping across your entire gradel level, as well as, vertically across your grades.  When I was at Lincoln Middle School in Gainesville, FL, we did some amazing, creative things with our curriculum and how it was delivered, but student transiency within the district had to be addressed, leading to more conformity across the schools.

There are many progressions that could fit your community, but whatever you select will be more powerful for your students, if it is massaged to create a synergy of your school's broader educational effort.

Hi Jurema

I don't know if this helps you or not, but I thought I would offer this piece of information just in case.  I teach in Alberta, Canada.  Our Middle School Science curriculum is a spiraling curriculum that clearly states objectives in terms of Skills, Knowledge and Attitudes.  The Alberta Provincial curriculum is somewhat similar to the STEM themes and your country's Next Generation Science Standards.  I would not recommend following this exactly, but it may give you an idea of how to structure a spiraling curriculum.  You can view the Alberta Science Curriculum here: http://education.alberta.ca/media/654829/sci7to9.pdf

Although we do not have national Science standards, we do have common core standards for K-12 curriculum in 6 provinces and 3 territories across Canada.

I hope this helps.

Hi Jurema,

I haven't taught with a spiraling curriculum in middle school - my experience mirrored yours (7th grade was life science, 8th grade was earth and physical). However, it just occurred to me that you have an interesting opportunity with the Next Generation Science Standards, and the Cross Cutting Concepts in particular. (See the Framework for K-12 Science Education for more details; http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=13165&page=84 or our archived web seminar on the events page.) The seven concepts are patterns, cause and effect, scale, proportion, and quantity, systems and system models, energy and matter: flows, cycles, and conservation, structure and function, and stability and change.

Perhaps instead of changing to a spiraling curriculum, you could emphasize these concepts to make stronger connections between the disciplines in 6th, 7th, and 8th? I'm thinking that using an essential question approach to structure units could be used to bring these concepts forward.

Great suggestion Jessica

Jessica Fries-Gaither said:

Hi Jurema,

I haven't taught with a spiraling curriculum in middle school - my experience mirrored yours (7th grade was life science, 8th grade was earth and physical). However, it just occurred to me that you have an interesting opportunity with the Next Generation Science Standards, and the Cross Cutting Concepts in particular. (See the Framework for K-12 Science Education for more details; http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=13165&page=84 or our archived web seminar on the events page.) The seven concepts are patterns, cause and effect, scale, proportion, and quantity, systems and system models, energy and matter: flows, cycles, and conservation, structure and function, and stability and change.

Perhaps instead of changing to a spiraling curriculum, you could emphasize these concepts to make stronger connections between the disciplines in 6th, 7th, and 8th? I'm thinking that using an essential question approach to structure units could be used to bring these concepts forward.

Hello Jurema,

The Next Generation Science Standards will be released at the end of 2012. If your state is one of those who are adopting them (and even if not), they will be a great resource for you. You can download the K-12 Frameworks (the parent document) for free from the NAS bookstore. The NSTA site has the current draft, which is for public view.

Hope this helps!

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