National and Local Science Standards
Training students to be scientists is an excellent way for
teachers to meet many of the National Science Education Standards
(1996). Fundamental abilities necessary for a student to do
scientific inquiry include (National Science Education Standards p.
||Ability to identify questions that can be
answered through scientific investigations|
||Ability to design and conduct a scientific
||Ability to use appropriate tools and
techniques to gather, analyze and interpret data|
||Ability to develop descriptions,
explanations, predictions and models using
||Ability to think critically and logically to
make the relationships between evidence and
These standards correspond directly to the Washington
State Science Essential Academic Learning Requirement (EALR)
number 2: "the student knows and uses the skills and processes of
science and technology" and the benchmarks designed to meet this
While many published middle school science curricula include
laboratory investigations that answer a research question, they
rarely provide an opportunity for students to ask their own research
question and then design and carry out an appropriate experiment.
The skills used to follow a scripted laboratory investigation are
much different from those used to formulate a testable research
question and the corresponding hypotheses and experimental methods.
The TRUTH About Science curriculum module uses scripted
laboratory investigations to teach principles of science research
such as control and treatment types, replication, controlling
outside factors to limit their influence, randomization, and keeping
careful records. Students then apply these principles when they
design and carry out their own research projects.
Principles of data analysis included in the science standards
state that students should have the ability to use appropriate tools
and techniques to analyze and interpret data. The TRUTH About
Science approaches data analysis from a statistical perspective.
Students learn to summarize and represent their data using averages,
tables, and graphs. Students learn how variability in data
influences interpretations and how to assess and display variance.
These methods push students to think analytically and critically
about their data and the overall project. Students must synthesize
what they have learned about experimental design and data analysis
with the results of their research to interpret and explain their
The TRUTH About Science also meets the new Principles and Standards for
School Mathematics standards for data analysis and probability
(National Council of Teachers of Mathematics 2000). The standards
state that instructional programs for 6th-8th grade students should
enable them to "formulate questions, design studies, and collect
data about a characteristics shared by two populations."
National Science Education Standards. 1996.
National Academy Press, Washington,
Principles and Standards for School Mathematics.
National Council of
Teachers of Mathematics, Inc. 1906 Association Drive, Reston, VA
of Curriculum Module
The curriculum is designed and organized to be taught from
beginning to end (Day 1 to Day 40). The development builds and
reinforces skills in a deliberate sequence. Although teachers may
choose to omit certain lessons, this is not a curriculum from which
you can freely pick and choose. The centerpiece of the curriculum is
the Long Term Research Project (LTRP) in which student groups
formulate a testable research question and hypotheses, design their
experimental methods, collect and analyze data, and present their
research results and conclusions in both a written and oral format.
Icons are used to organize the concepts and the lessons. A set of
icons links concepts important to each lesson with the relevant
section in the background information for teachers. Each time a
concept is introduced or used, the icon appears to help teachers
relocate important information. Individual lesson icons identify
each lesson. The curriculum has been designed to use a minimum of
fancy materials. All lessons can be completed using materials
found in department and hardware stores.
The curriculum is divided into 4 main sections: Research
Questions and Hypotheses, Experimental
and Summarizing Results, and Presentation
of Research Projects. Each section contains several pages of
background information and approximately 10 lessons. The lessons
combine stand-alone activities to teach research skills with lessons
that develop the independent research project (LTRP).
Research Questions and Hypotheses,
the first section of the curriculum (Days 1 through 11), emphasizes
making quantitative observations, using the basic structure for
science research projects (introduction, methods, results,
conclusion), asking testable questions, and formulating hypotheses.
The lessons challenge students to ask questions to explore different
systems. Students learn to formulate testable research questions
that involve a comparison and a quantitative measure. From their
research questions, they can state their alternative and null
hypotheses. Questions and hypotheses structured in this way
reinforce the concepts of quantitative observations and comparative
research. They also set the stage for doing statistical testing. At
the end of the first section, students are ready to ask a research
question and formulate hypotheses for their long-term research
projects. Students finish the section by drafting the introduction
paragraph for their poster presentation.
The second section of the curriculum, Experimental Design (Days 12 through 20),
developes the skills needed to design their long-term research
project. Students conduct several experiments and observe how
changes in the procedures influence the results. They learn from
experience the concepts of different treatment types (treatment and
control), replication, randomization, and controlling for factors
that might influence results. These concepts help students to design
objective experiments and avoid investigator bias. With this
background, they return to their small groups and design experiments
to answer the research question posed earlier. At this point,
students draft the methods paragraph for their poster presentation.
The final two lessons provide time for the students to collect data
for their research project. Data collection involves a field trip to
a park or to the school yard.
Days 21 through 31, Analyzing and Summarizing
Results, include the data analysis and data interpretation
lessons. This third section emphasizes quantitative skills used to
understand data sets. Students summarize their data using averages,
display their using histograms, evaluate the impact of data
variability on their conclusions, and conduct and interpret
statistical tests on their data. The quantitative skills are taught
through engaging hands-on activities and are then applied to the
students' own data set. At the conclusion of this section, students
draft two paragraphs for their poster presentation, one that
describes their results and one that interprets the results and
concludes the project. We have included plenty of background
information for teachers who have not had much experience with
statistics or quantitative analyses of data sets.
During the final section of the curriculum, Presentation of Research Projects (Days
32 - 40), students are focused on putting their posters together and
preparing their oral presentations. It is wonderful to watch the
groups work together in these final days. Motivation is high,
creativity is soaring, and all the hard work of the previous weeks
is paying off. Students are given an opportunity to review and
critique each other's work and then to incorporate the suggestions
into their final product. Students practice their presentations to
themselves, their class, and another class before going on stage
before their parents. The final celebration is just that, a
celebration. This night, the students truly shine as they reveal the
truth about science as they have experienced it.
The Truth About Science attempts to fill several gaps in
science education. As teachers and as students, we have found that
students rarely get an opportunity to be scientists, asking and
answering their own scientific questions. Hands-on science classes
and science labs frequently allow students to learn various lab
techniques and to demonstrate how something works. Rarely do
students get a chance to think creatively and to apply the
techniques they have learned to a research project or an experiment
of their own design. We have written this curriculum to provide
middle school students with an opportunity to do their own science
research just as more senior scientists do.
The curriculum also attempts to subvert a common perception of
students: they will never use the skills learned in math classes.
Mathematics is a critical tool used by scientists all the time!
Scientists use math to quantify their research observations,
summarize data, display data in tables and graphs, and determine the
probability of results. Middle school science students can carry out
all of these mathematical steps on their own data.
We reward students for all of their creative, critical thinking
and hard work by hosting a final celebration where they display
posters and give short oral presentations on their research
projects. Professional scientists give presentations all the time.
Being on stage and demonstrating your enthusiasm for your own
research is an integral part of scientific life. Families, teachers,
and administrators are all invited to celebrate and congratulate the
students on their accomplishments. Scientists have a responsibility
to report their results to the larger scientific community and the
general public. This new generation of scientists will have
experienced this critical step of the scientific process by the time
they have completed middle school.
the Curriculum Module
The development of this curriculum occurred in two parts, the
informal development process and the formal development process. As
teachers and graduate students, we both recognized the gap between
how science is generally taught and what it means to really do
science. Over nearly a decade, we dreamed of ways to bridge this
gap. In January 1998, we submitted the first grant proposal and
within a month received our first rejection. After several
iterations of reworking and rewriting the grant, we received funding
from two sources, The Discuren Foundation and the National Research Center for
Statistics and the Environment, for 11 months of work.
The curriculum was first taught by Ashley and Kathryn in two
Seattle public school classrooms in the fall of 1998. By spring,
four teachers at three different schools had agreed to pilot the
curriculum with training and support from Ashley, Kathryn, and
Caroline Kiehle with the Middle School Science Systemic Reform
Project at the University of Washington. In 1999, we received two
new grants from the Discuren Foundation. The first grant provided
support to host a teacher workshop on The TRUTH About Science
in the summer of 1999. The second grant enabled us to work part-time
revising the lessons, developing this web page, and disseminating
the curriculum. Ideas and suggestions from many classroom teachers
and students have been incorporated into our final version of the