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Science to become hands on at Greenfield

June 17, 2014

Greenfield — A new science program that would have children as young as kindergarten doing experiments, making observations and reporting what they saw won the support of the Greenfield School Board.

Meeting in a committee of the whole last week, the board unanimously recommended adoption of the new science curriculum for kindergarten to fifth grade at its Monday, June 23, meeting.

The way the new program joins hands-on science with writing about the results has school officials excited, said Charity Eich, director of curriculum, assessment and instruction for kindergarten through fifth grade.

That's partly because the schools will soon be graded in both English and math on the state's new Smarter Balance student testing and the proposed Foss Science program is expected to help in both those areas.

Not only that, feedback from Greenfield teachers using the program on a pilot basis in 13 classrooms reported that the Foss program stimulates curiosity and promotes inquiry, Eich said.

"Students are starting to talk more about science and ask more questions," she said. They're even reading more on the own about science, she said.

"It's definitely going to be a very motivating and engaging program," she said.

And it is expected to be in the schools this fall.

"It will be more exciting for the kids," said School Board President Cathy Walsh.

The new program would be a boost for science teaching that is in line with the district's strengths, she said. "The superintendent is science-based and I think she has a great interest in improving science throughout the district."

Indeed, Superintendent Lisa Elliott said, "It's exciting because students will be doing science instead of hearing about science."

Foss takes students deep into science topics and into the thinking behind science inquiry, Eich said.

"It's not just knowing a lot of stuff, but how we came to know it," she said.

While students do scientific experiments already, soon they would also plan and carry out investigations, Eich said. They also would record their observations and be called on to back up any conclusions they reach with solid data and arguments, she said.

Even kindergartners too young to write might find themselves doing an experiment combining water and dirt to see what happens and then drawing pictures to communicate what they saw, Eich said. They also could be asked to describe orally what happened in their messy experiment.

The Foss Science program would replace the current science curriculum that Greenfield teachers developed. This was the regular time for the science curriculum to be reviewed, Eich said.

"It will be a new start for us," Eich said. Foss is already in quite a few area schools, she said, and it came out well ahead of the other approaches studied in the curriculum review.

The cost is $175,000 plus annual spending for supplies used in experiments. But those consumables are relatively low cost and the elementary school principals have assured her that they can cover them in their building budgets, she said.

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