scientists and K-12 education

wijsman at wijsman at
Sun Jan 17 20:33:40 EST 1993

Hello netters - 

My husband and I (both faculty at the Univ. of Washington in different
scientific fields) have volunteered to work with the teachers at one
of the local elementary schools to improve the science curriculum.
I would hope that any success we have in revising the K-12
science curriculum here in Seattle will be of use other places as well.

I am posting this to various general newsgroups which are read by
practicing scientists in the hopes of getting some feedback. 

In our discussions with the teachers so far we have realized there is
a huge gulf between us in our concept of what a "science curriculum"
really is:
-  We think in terms of integrating science and math; they think in terms
of adding science to social studies theme units.  
-  We think in terms of "process" (e.g. guiding the kids through 
experiments);  they seem focused on packaging bodies of facts.  
-  We are eager to see new elements introduced into the curriculum;  
they are understandably reluctant to delve into areas in which they have 
no training.

We are therefore working on defining and preparing a clear
statement of what we, as active scientists, would like to see the
schools teach. I am looking for feedback from the scientific community 
(1) what the goals should be for pre-college science education, and 
(2) any experience other scientists have had in working
    with schools, especially (at the moment) elementary schools. 

I am particularly interested in getting input in response to the 
following questions, although general comments are also welcome: 

(1) What general science skills are missing in entering college
students, both students who are intent on pursuing a major in a
scientific field, and (perhaps more importantly) those who
are majoring in a non-scientific field? 

(2) What specific knowledge from your own field (please identify the
field) do you think students should have by various points in
their pre-college education, keeping in mind that science education
needs to include contact with many different fields? Perhaps this
should be given in the context of grade groupings of K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and
9-12, or some such approximation. Interaction among fields (e.g., math 
and science) can be included in this.

(3) What scientific skills and knowledge from your field do you think
that individuals who do NOT go on to college should have? 

(4) If you have tried to work with teachers on science instruction at
the elementary school level, what did you do which was effective, and
what did you do which was ineffective, either with respect to the 
students or the teachers?  I am more interested in hearing about the
results of consistent involvement, rather than a one-time special 

Ellen M. Wijsman 
Div. Medical Genetics, RG-25 
and Dept. Biostatistics
University of Washington Seattle, WA  98195
wijsman at 

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