Creation, development, and evolution of a curriculum can only occur in a classroom. We have spent thousands of hours in classrooms across the country, working directly with thousands of teachers and students, creating and developing the LabLearner curriculum. It’s this combination of careful research and the ability to listen to teachers and school administrators that has led to the well conceived and thoughtful curriculum that you see today.
By 2004, rather than thinking in isolated categories like Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science and Physics, our LabLearner science curriculum began to revolve around nine Core Concepts™ which we believed offered a much more useful way to organize elementary and middle school science instruction. It also results in a spiraling curriculum where scientific concepts build upon each other, year after year. This is now precisely the recommendation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
Over 60 CELLs (Core Experience Learning Labs) are strategically inserted throughout the PreK-8 educational experience for a truly spiraling curriculum (see below). At each grade level, developmental and academic skills are accounted for. These skills range from mathematical, reading, writing, critical thinking, and fine motor skills, among others.
In addition, LabLearner CELLs have been designed so that essential scientific themes spiral throughout the curriculum from PreK through eighth grade, taking into account the neurocognitive processing mechanisms of elementary and middle school students, while remaining perfectly correlated with academic standards.
In 2010, the National Research Council released what they called “Crosscutting Concepts” as a means of integrating the K-12 science curriculum into a unified, spiraling curriculum of related concepts. These concepts now serve as the basis of the newly formulated Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
Beyond the cross-cutting concepts, LabLearner Program is infused with the Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) and Math Standards.
Information processing is important in learning and memory. In fact, if new information is not processed it will not lead to permanent new memories and learning will not occur. Conversely, the more extensively new information is processed, the better it will be remembered. The steps involved in the input and processing of new information is summarized in the Information Processing Model. Let’s consider this model in overview. The Input arrow indicates new information entering the brain. Most information that we are presented with never makes it through the sensory register and is lost as indicated by the downward arrow on the left (leading to “Forgotten”). We receive an enormous amount of information, thousands of stimuli per second. We cannot process so much information at one time. Consider, for example, the “feel” of your right foot at this very moment. If you choose to concentrate on it, you can actually sense information being sent from your foot to your brain. Obviously, it would be difficult to concentrate on anything else if we spent all of our time dealing with information coming from our right foot, let alone the rest of our body and environment. Therefore, we routinely filter out almost all information delivered to our brain through the sensory register.
Below are samples of the LabLearner curriculum aimed at giving you a glimpse into the teaching, application and absorption of the curriculum material.
- Each academic year is divided into a series of Core Experience Learning Labs (CELLs)
- Each CELL consists of three to six Investigations, each of which takes approximately a week to complete.
- Each Investigation consists of three lessons: PreLab, Lab, PostLab
Grade Three: Investigation Four: Exploring Electricity
Exploring Electricity Sample Lesson Plan includes introductory material for the entire CELL and information to teach the pre-lab, lab, and post-lab lesson of Investigation Four and the Performance Assessment. Performance Assessments are in-lab lessons in which students must solve a problem using concepts from previous Investigations by designing their own experiment.
Exploring Electricity Sample Student Data Record (SDR) serves as the students’ workbook/science journals. This sample includes key vocabulary, entries for data collection, pre and post-lab activities, and data analysis for Investigation Four and the Performance Assessment. The teacher key for all SDR questions is located within the Exploring Electricity Sample Lesson Plan.
Exploring Electricity Sample Pre-Post Assessments provide an individualized assessment tool for student evaluation. Pre-tests are designed to elicit information about a student’s background knowledge of concepts prior to beginning a CELL. Post-tests capture student understanding of concepts at the completion of a CELL. Both student and teacher keys are included.
Exploring Electricity Sample CELL Summary provides a way to review experiments conducted in the LabLearner Lab. The summary is broken down into the experiments students performed in the Investigation Four lab AND the results of the experiments.
Exploring Electricity Sample Videos: Videos for both teachers and students accompany each Investigation. Teacher videos focus on inside tips, logistic suggestions and useful theoretical background for each Investigation. Student video are viewed during the PreLab so students know exactly what to expect and do when they get to the Lab.
- Each academic year is divided into a series of Core Experience Learning Labs (CELLs)
- Each CELL is divided into a theoretical introduction for the teacher and three to four Investigations.
- Each Investigation consists of four lessons: Concepts, PreLab, Lab, PostLab
Grade Seven: Investigation Two: Chemical Reactions
Chemical Reactions Sample Introduction provides a summary of concepts introduced in the CELL, key terms and materials needed to teach the entire CELL.
Chemical Reactions Investigation Two Sample Concepts: introduces and explains the scientific concepts that will be introduced in Investigation Two Lab.
Chemical Reactions Investigation Two Sample Pre-Lab reinforces the scientific concepts within the CELL and their real-world connections. Included in the lesson are key vocabulary, Focus Questions relevant to the upcoming lab and a short video highlighting key steps and manipulations that will be encountered in Lab.
Chemical Reactions Investigation Two Sample Lab includes important teacher preparation for the Lab, objectives the Lab, lab materials, and lab procedures.
Chemical Reactions Investigation Two Sample Post-Lab includes analysis questions and suggested responses, suggested data to use as a reference; and the opportunity to compare lab experiences, discuss data trends, and summarize conclusions.
Chemical Reactions Performance Assessment lists the objectives of the assessment, provides the teacher with instructions for preparing assessment materials, list materials needed for each student lab group, includes the Student Data Record (SDR) Background(s) for the assessment, and suggested data to use as a reference. Performance Assessments are in-lab lessons in which students must solve a problem using concepts from previous Investigations by designing their own experiment.
Chemical Reactions Sample Performance Assessment Rubric serves as a guide for teachers to assess students’ work in the Performance Assessment. Rubric goals align with the goals provided to students in their copy of the Student Data Record (SDR) of the Performance Assessment.
Chemical Reactions Sample Student Data Record (SDR) serves as the students’ workbook/science journals. This sample includes key vocabulary, background information, entries for data collection, and data analysis for Investigation Two and the Performance Assessment.
Chemical Reactions Sample Pre-Post Assessments provide an individualized assessment tool for student evaluation. Pre-tests are designed to elicit information about a student’s background knowledge of concepts prior to beginning a CELL. Post-tests capture student understanding of concepts at the completion of a CELL. Both student and teacher keys are included.
Chemical Reactions Sample CELL Summary provides a way to review experiments conducted in the LabLearner Lab.
Spiraling Curriculum Example: Developing a Concept of Heat through Hands-on Experiments
As an example of how the LabLearner curriculum spirals concepts from primary grades through middle school, consider the concept of heat. The concept of heat is discussed with students before they can read. They perform experiments with thermometers at this time as well.
As the years progress, students learn more and more about heat: how it can be used to do mechanical work, how heat is involved in chemical reactions and even how photons are produced in the Sun’s interior by nuclear fusion.
Kindergarten: Exploring Time and Sequence
Students investigate the effect of heat by comparing two ice cubes: one ice cube that sits under a lamp and another that remains “shaded.” They contrast the appearance of each over a period of time. In addition, students drop food coloring into cold and hot water and observe differences in the time it takes for the dye to spread in each temperature water.
Grade 1: Weather Changes
Students perform experiments and construct models that explore weather and changes in weather. Among other fundamental concepts, students explore the characteristics of the four seasons and the changes in temperature that occur during each season. Students measure the temperature in different school locations after learning to use thermometers.
Grade 3: Our Solar System
Students are introduced to basic physical principles through investigations related to our solar system. A central focus is their investigation of three forms of radiant energy released by the Sun: visible light, infrared energy, and ultraviolet energy. As a part of their investigations, students explore how radiant energy produces temperature changes in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Grade 4: Forms of Energy
Through experimentation, students explore the concept of energy. Students learn to identify and understand the different forms of energy, including thermo energy and heat, and their uses in every day life. As a focus, students examine the Law of Conservation of Energy as it applies to chemical energy and heat by conducting experiments with endothermic and exothermic reactions.
Grade 5: Investigating Heat
Students explore heat, temperature, and the transfer of heat through conduction, convection, and radiation. They investigate the relationship between kinetic energy and temperature, and the relationship of heat to kinetic energy and temperature. In addition, they learn to calculate the rate of heat transfer and use this formula to draw conclusions as they explore different types and processes of heat transfer. Investigations also focus on heat conductivity and the understanding that the chemical composition of matter determines its ability to transfer heat.
Grade 6: Kinetic and Potential Energy
Through experimentation and data collection, students explore the following type of questions: How does the transfer of potential energy to kinetic energy relate to the Law of Conservation of Energy? Can one form of energy be converted to another? An area of focus is the transfer of energy from light (kinetic energy) to another form of kinetic energy, thermal energy or heat.
Grade 6: Atmosphere
Students explore Charles’ Law, the relationship between the temperature and density of air, and the relationship between the density of air and atmospheric pressure. Students investigate how changes in the temperature of the atmosphere produce changes in its density. Through their experiments, students gain a better understanding of atmospheric events, weather phenomena and the scientific principles that govern them.
Grade 7: Chemical Reactions
Students investigate chemical reactions and the principles that govern the consumption of reactants, the production of products, and the dependence of reaction rate on reactant concentration. Through experimentation and data collection, students study endothermic and exothermic chemical reactions and build a calorimeter to follow the heat production as chemical reactions take place. They tie their observations to the Law of Conservation of Matter, the relationship among the reactants, the products and the rate of the reaction.
Grade 8: Heat Transfer
Students investigate the relationship between kinetic energy, temperature, and heat transfer during physical changes of state. Further, the effect of solutes on freezing point and boiling point is explored. Finally, students explore specific heat capacity by quantitating the amount of heat that is absorbed by a solid and calculating the amount of heat that the solid can transfer.
Cross-Section of Assessments
Most educators and researchers agree that science should primarily be taught in a hands-on, experiential fashion. This constant is more measurable, of course, than success. Thus, the baseline question for educators and researchers alike in the field of science education today is: What constitutes a good or successful science experience for students? We’re able to make this assessment in a number of ways.
Assessments and Testing – Are We Doing It Correctly?
What Can We Learn From the Research and Clinical Sciences Models? Several years ago, my colleague, Dr. Paul Eslinger, and I were asked to write a short piece about “high-stakes” testing in K-12 systems for The EducationPolicy and Leadership Center. At the time, Paul was a neuropsychologist that worked with patients suffering from various forms of […]
The preschool portion of the LabLearner program was assessed over a five-month period in eleven preschool classrooms, including Head Start and STEP classrooms, in three different states: Pennsylvania, Florida, and Virginia. The goal of the assessments was to determine whether the LabLearner Preschool Program fostered the development of critical thinking, problem solving, numeracy, fine motor control, […]
The preK-8 LabLearner Program consists of some 60-plus individual science units called Core Experience Learning Labs (CELLs). Each CELL takes approximately four or five weeks for a class to complete, working in teams of four to six students. In grades one through eight, students complete a pretest, taken before the CELL begins and a posttest, […]
Blue Ribbon Awards
The U.S. Department of Education, National Blue Ribbon Award is one way to assess the academic impact of a curriculum or program. The Blue Ribbon is widely considered the “highest honor a school can achieve”. This is because the Blue Ribbon is not just a measure of minimal compliance or simple standardized test scores. It is […]
Within the U.S. there is a large diversity of standardized tests that public and private schools choose to assess their students in science. LabLearner schools across the U.S. utilize a variety of standardized tests such as the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs), the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAPs), the Standard Achievement Test 10th edition (SAT […]
Perhaps the best evaluation of all is to simply talk to students to find out what they really know about science. Teachers try to do this as much as possible because rather than a static, one way “report” of information from student to teacher, a back and forth exchange of thoughts occurs. Students can ask […]