Archived InformationState of the Art: Science - September 1993
(American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1989)
There are different schemata for organizing science content around topics and relating units often taught in elementary grades to the larger ideas of science. Project 2061 identifies common themes that pervade science, mathematics, and technology (such as systems, stability and change, and scale) and suggests that science curricula should be centered around these themes. A conceptual approach to science would suggest science concepts (such as diversity, variation, order, structure, function, and change) as a way of integrating diverse topics. Other reports suggest different organizing principles, but the common element from research and studies is that the curriculum highlight major ideas, concepts, or themes, "the big ideas," so that "detailed information about science becomes connected, becomes meaningful, and contributes to successful problem solving" (Elementary School Science for the '90s).
More time can be spent on developing understanding of the major concepts illustrated by the topics. An illustration of how a unit on seeds can build understanding of a major idea is found in the Life Lab Science program. The first grade theme of this curriculum is diversity and cycles. A unit on investigating seeds would compare and contrast seeds, monitor germination, and begin to predict the outcome of simple experiments. Other units on a study of soil and the diverse plants and animals living in it will continue the theme drawing upon the life, physical, and earth sciences and the connectedness among the sciences around this major idea.