According to the Next Gen Science Standards, the new aim/vision of science education in the United States is for ALL students to become proficient in science by the time they finish high school. Science proficiency is defined by four aspects:
Knowing important scientific explanations about the natural world, to be able to use these explanations to solve problems, and to be able to understand new explanations when they are introduced.
Be able to generate and evaluate scientific explanations and scientific arguments.
Understand the nature of scientific knowledge and how it develops over time.
Be able to participate in scientific practices (designing and carrying out investigations, constructing explanations, and arguing from evidence) and communicate in a scientific manner.
Science proficiency, in other words, involves more than an understanding of important concepts; it also involves being able to do science! Modeling Instruction is a research based approach used to accomplish these goals. Northview has teachers that have recently participated in extensive training in Modeling Instruction. In Biology, it is Kris Walendzik. In Chemistry, it is Derek Smith. In Physics, it is Erin Berryhill. Erin Berryhill and Brian Hendricks are also piloting a new curriculum this year in Chemistry and Physics developed by the CREATE for STEM institute at Michigan State University. This pilot is part of a study called Crafting Engagement in Science Environments (CESE). The new units that they will be piloting allow students to explore questions important to them while they develop models to help explain everyday phenomenon.
Modeling instruction gives students more opportunities to learn how to participate in the practices of science. With this knowledge and these abilities, students will be able to engage in public discussions about scientific issues related to their everyday life, to be a consumer of scientific information, and will have the skills needed to enter a science or science-related career, if they choose to. The emphasis will be on “how we know”, in addition to “what we know” about science.
Model building is a tool scientists use. Model building is a repetitive practice that helps you acquire knowledge, generate predictions, explanations, analyze and interpret data, develop communication skills, and make evidence-based arguments through active participation. A model helps us organize the information we gather as we identify patterns and processes in the natural world over time. Models are sets of ideas that explain natural phenomena. A model is based on evidence and supported by data. Models are shared and discussed among scientists and are continuously tested. A model can be challenged and revised when new evidence is found. Models can be physical (2-D or 3-D), mathematical (symbols, graphs), or conceptual (communicated verbally, visually).