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This is the first in a series of posts relating to the life science content standards for grades 5 through 8 of the 2005 National Science Education Standards from the National Research Council. We’ll look at how Real Science-4-Kids (RS4K) teaching materials align with these.

National Science Education Standards; Life Science 1:

STRUCTURE AND FUNCTION IN LIVING SYSTEMS

A.    Living systems at all levels of organization demonstrate the complementary nature of structure and function. Important levels of organization for structure and function include cells, organs, tissues, organ systems, whole organisms, and ecosystems.

B.    All organisms are composed of cells – the fundamental unit of life. Most organisms are single cells; other organisms, including humans, are multi-cellular.

C.    Cells carry on the many functions needed to sustain life. They grow and divide, thereby producing more cells. This requires that they take in nutrients, which they use to provide energy for the work that cells do and to make the materials that a cell or an organism needs.

D.    Specialized cells perform specialized functions in multi-cellular organisms. Groups of specialized cells cooperate to form a tissue, such as a muscle. Different tissues are in turn grouped together to form larger functional units, called organs. Each type of cell, tissue, and organs has a distinct structure and set of functions that serve the organism as a whole.

E.    The human organism has systems for digestion, respiration, reproduction, circulation, excretion, movement, control, and coordination, and for protection from disease. These systems interact with one another.

F.    Disease is a breakdown in structures or functions of an organism. Some diseases are the result of intrinsic failures of the system. Others are the result of damage by infection by other organisms.

 

Real Science-4-Kids meets this standard in the following ways:

The National Standards for “life science” corresponds with the RS4K Biology series. Because each level of the RS4K curricula covers subjects in the same order (with more depth added for higher levels), the following alignments with the national standards are generally true for Pre-Level I as well as Level I. However, specific examples are taken from Level I texts and workbooks since that age range most closely matches that of the National Standards presented here. Because information is built upon with each chapter, many areas of knowledge in the standards show up in virtually all chapters. However, the key chapters for each section are shown below.

A.    The Student Textbook for biology and the corresponding experiments in the Laboratory Workbook have numerous chapters specifically addressing the knowledge listed in section A above. Primary are chapter 1 (Living Creatures), chapter 2 (Cells – The Building Blocks of Life), and chapter 10 (Our Balanced World).

B.    Chapter 2 (Cells – The Building Blocks of Life) in the biology texts specifically describe cells as the fundamental unit of life, from single cells to complex, multi-cellular organisms like humans. All subsequent chapters go into more detail.

C.    The biology chapters most directly dealing with the functions of cells include: chapter 2 (Cells – The Building Blocks of Life), includes a wonderful illustration page of the small “factory” that is a cell; chapter 3 (Photosynthesis), because it teaches how certain plant cells have the capacity to use the sun’s light as food; and chapter 7 (Protists II), because the text and the related experiments specifically address how a protist performs the function of “eating.”

D.    Tissues, organs and general cellular structure are primarily addressed in chapter 2 (Cells – The Building Blocks of Life), and virtually all other chapter contribute more on this subject. For example, chapter 5 (How a Plant Grows) has a section on how a plant receives a signal that gives it instructions for functions such as whether to grow up or down.

E.    These systems are covered in depth for certain non-human organisms in chapters 3 (Photosynthesis), 4 (Parts of a Plant), 5 (How a Plant Grows), 6 (Protists I), 7 (Protists II), 8 (The Butterfly Cycle), and 9 (The Frog Life Cycle). Chapter 10 (Our Balanced World) relates information on how systems work together in our environment and how humans interact with the cycles of nature.

F.    Diseases are not specifically covered in the textbooks as of July 2009, but subjects not covered by current books will be addressed in either the upcoming Level II Biology materials and/or the “B” series for Pre-Level I and Level I.


This is the third in a series of posts relating to the physical science content standards for grades 5 through 8 of the 2005 National Science Education Standards from the National Research Council. We’ll look at how Real Science-4-Kids (RS4K) and Kogs-4-Kids (K4K) texts align with these.

National Science Education Standards; Physical Science 3:

TRANSFER OF ENERGY

A.    Energy is a property of many substances and is associated with heat, light, electricity, mechanical motion, sound, nuclei, and the nature of a chemical. Energy is transferred in many ways.

B.    Heat moves in predictable ways, flowing from warmer objects to cooler ones, until both reach the same temperature.

C.    Light interacts with matter by transmission (including refraction), absorption, or scattering (including reflection). To see an object, light from that object–emitted by or scattered from it–must enter the eye.

D.    Electrical circuits provide a means of transferring electrical energy when heat, light, sound, and chemical changes are produced.

E.    In most chemical and nuclear reactions, energy is transferred into or out of a system. Heat, light, mechanical motion, or electricity might all be involved in such transfers.

F.    The sun is a major source of energy for changes on the earth’s surface. The sun loses energy by emitting light. A tiny fraction of that light reaches the earth, transferring energy from the sun to the earth. The sun’s energy arrives as light with a range of wavelengths, consisting of visible light, infrared, and ultraviolet radiation.

 

Real Science-4-Kids meets this standard in the following ways:

The National Standards for “physical science” includes the subjects of chemistry and physics (“life science” or biology is addressed separately). Because each level of the RS4K curricula covers subjects in the same order (with more depth added for higher levels), the following alignments are generally true for Pre-Level I and Level II as well as Level I. However, specific examples are taken from Level I texts and workbooks since that age range most closely matches that of the National Standards presented here. Kogs workbooks match the subject matter of each chapter but expand that subject in the context of the book’s category (philosophy, critical thinking, history, etc.). Because information is built upon with each chapter, many types of knowledge in the standards show up in virtually all chapters. However, the key chapters for each section are shown below.

A.    The Student Textbook for physics and the corresponding experiments in the Laboratory Workbook have numerous chapters specifically addressing the knowledge listed in section A above. They include: chapter 2 (Force, Energy and Work), chapter 3 (Potential and Kinetic Energy), chapter 4 (Motion), chapter 5 (Energy of Atoms and Molecules), chapter 6 (Electrical Energy and Charge), and chapter 9 (Light and Sound). In the Level I Chemistry Student Text, the energy in foods is addressed in chapter 8 (Energy Molecules).

B.    The physics books address the knowledge listed in section B above with chapter 7 (Moving Electric Charges and Heat).

C.    The physics books address the knowledge listed in section C above primarily in chapter 9 (Light and Sound). The related experiment instructs students on how to explore both reflection and refraction using a prism.

D.    Electrical circuits are addressed in the physics texts in several ways and places. Primary discussions are in chapter 5 (Energy of Atoms and Molecules), chapter 6 (Electrical Energy and Charge), chapter 7 (Moving Electric Charges and Heat) and chapter 8 (Magnets and Electromagnets).

E.    Chemical and nuclear reactions are discussed primarily in the physics books in chapter 5 (Energy of Atoms and Molecules). In the chemistry books, reactions are explained primarily in chapter 3 (Chemical Reactions) and chapter 8 (Energy Molecules).

F.    The wavelengths of light are covered in detail in the physics books in chapter 9 (Light and Sound). The sun’s energy is also discussed at the end of chapter 10 (Conservation of Energy).


Has this happened to you? The gist of something you hear does not seem quite “right,” yet the speaker sounds so logical it seems it must be a statement of fact.

Or, your child says something that tells you she or he has drawn the wrong conclusion from diverse bits of information?

Just as an optical lens can help our eyes see more clearly, a properly balanced (objective) intellectual “lens” can help us think more clearly. It is called a “critical thinking lens,” and its use should not be limited to questions of science. It is helpful in all areas of our lives. Let’s look at the steps for evaluating information “critically” as presented in the Kogs-4-Kids Critical Thinking workbook.

A “critical thinker” of any age collects information, evaluates the information, draws conclusions using logic, and then further evaluates the logical conclusions. The most important part of all of these steps is to ask questions – the right questions.

To collect information, begin with questions journalists always try to answer when writing a story: Who? What? When? Where? How? Strive to clarify the facts further with questions such as: Who else? How much? Exactly what time?

To evaluate all of the collected details, ask questions that explore the relevance and significance of each fact. Is each fact substantial, crucial or applicable to the answer (conclusion) you wish to find?

Next, logic helps a critical thinker avoid errors in a conclusion by exploring validity, consistency and logical flaws.

Finally, evaluate the conclusion itself with questions about its fairness, reasonableness, depth and breadth. Ask questions such as: Does my conclusion seem practical? Did I gather my information from only one source? Could there be information that I am missing?

For illustration, let’s look at an overly simple example. Let’s say a child makes the statement that real cats are yellow. To help him learn if his view of the world (relating to the color of cats) is valid, you might ask him a series of fact-finding questions. Who or what makes you think this is true? He says: “I have seen yellow cats.” Where and when have you seen them? He says: “When I play in my backyard.” When exactly do you play in the yard and see the cats? He says, “Every afternoon.” How many cats do you see? He says, “Three.”

You agree that these are interesting facts, and they are relevant because he has experienced seeing yellow cats himself. It even seems logical for him to draw the conclusion that real cats are yellow based on his observations.

But now the “logical” conclusion must be evaluated once more for fairness, reasonableness, depth and breadth.

You ask another series of questions: Do you think there may be other cats that only go outside in the morning but not the afternoon? He says, “Maybe.” Do you think some neighbors have cats that stay in the house all of the time so that you never see them? He says: “Maybe.” Do you have friends who have a pet cat? “Yes.” Have you seen whether those cats are all yellow? “No.” Can you think of any other place where you have seen a cat? “At my cousin’s house.” What color was that cat? “It was black and white. So real cats are not always yellow after all!”

This critical thinking lens (process) can be used with any statement (hypothesis, in science) to test its validity. Try it with a conclusion you hear in a newscast or with an often-heard bit of folk wisdom.


This is the second in a series of posts relating to the physical science content standards for grades 5 through 8 of the 2005 National Science Education Standards from the National Research Council. We’ll look at how Real Science-4-Kids (RS4K) and Kogs-4-Kids (K4K) texts align with these.

National Science Education Standards; Physical Science 2:

MOTIONS AND FORCES

A.    The motion of an object can be described by its position, direction of motion, and speed. That motion can be measured and represented on a graph.

B.    An object that is not being subjected to a force will continue to move at a constant speed and in a straight line.

C.    If more than one force acts on an object along a straight line, then the forces will reinforce or cancel one another, depending on their direction and magnitude. Unbalanced forces will cause changes in the speed or direction of an object’s motion.

Real Science-4-Kids meets this standard in the following ways:

The National Standards for “physical science” includes the subjects of chemistry and physics (“life science” or biology is addressed separately). Because each level of the RS4K curricula covers subjects in the same order (with more depth added for higher levels), the following alignments are generally true for Pre-Level I and Level II as well as Level I. However, specific examples are taken from Level I texts and workbooks since that age range most closely matches that of the National Standards presented here. Kogs workbooks match the subject matter of each chapter but expand that subject in the context of the book’s category (philosophy, critical thinking, history, etc.). Because information is built upon with each chapter, many types of knowledge in the standards show up in virtually all chapters. However, the key chapters for each section are shown below.

A.    The Student Textbook for physics and the corresponding experiments in the Laboratory Workbook have numerous chapters specifically addressing the knowledge listed in section A above. They include: chapter 2 (Force, Energy and Work), which addresses specifically this definition; and chapter 1 (What Is Physics?). Formulas are provided and explained, with results generally shown in table format (which can be plotted on a graph). For some experiments, students are asked to draw progressions of motion in graph-like fashion.

B.    The physics books address the knowledge listed in section B above with chapters including: chapter 4 (Motion).

C.    The physics books address the knowledge listed in section C above primarily in chapter 2 (Force, Energy and Work, which includes balanced and unbalanced forces) and chapter 4 (Motion).