Science and Engineering education will work to align the ideals of constructivism and accountability, which are considered to be at odds in modern education research. In Redefining Smart Mr. Markham shows there is a difference between being intelligent and having intelligent behavior. Intelligence is frequently considered to be genetically set, an unchangeable circumstance given to the privileged few.
The idea of intelligence versus intelligent behavior deeply undermines students’ ability to persist in the face of failure, perhaps even more so among those that were gifted with greater intellectual ability at birth. Using constructivist theories in science and engineering class students will be deeply engaged in learning that is personally meaningful causing the content of the learning to persist long past the test. Students will learn intelligent behavior by incorporating design thinking into project work. Project work will be at the core of science and Engineering curriculum at FAST.
The curriculum FAST will use to support our students as they learn both content and intelligent behavior will be the Full Option Science System® (FOSS®) designed for K-8 and Engineering is Elementary® designed for grades 1-5. In line with the standards set forth by the Georgia Department of Education the curriculum addresses both the content and the characteristics of science and will be used interchangeably or in conjunction with one another. EIE® will be used primarily in our lower grades as students gain facility with the design thinking process in a guided learning environment with hands-on activities. FOSS® is an investigation based approach to Science education that is hands-on, follows an engineering design methodology to each investigation and requires the integrated use of skills obtained in mathematics and computational thinking. Similar to our mathematics curriculum, FOSS® is also aligned to a mastery approach of learning. Fewer topics will be taught but with much greater depth of understanding.
FAST will seek ways to collaborate with external resources, including businesses, the community, and local colleges to gain access to real-world problem solving approaches used academically and professionally. Science and engineering project work will also integrate with writing projects in ELA as students develop opinion and argumentative writing pieces to support their scientific discoveries.
Fourth through eighth grade students will use an engineering design base rubric for evaluation. Notice the last column in the rubric entitled “breakthrough”. The standard rubric used by the Science Leadership Academy formed the basis of the FAST standard rubric.18 The FAST standard rubric adds the component of breakthrough as an expectation for our students. A student can get a 90 by showing mastery of the content but the only way to score 100 is to show creativity and innovation with breakthrough thinking. In How Google Works it is pointed out that people can be as limited by a set of goals as they are motivated by them. If one of the stated goals of FAST is to create innovative thinking than the standard by which we evaluate our students must reflect that goal. In order to get a “10” in breakthrough a student will need to exceed the base rubric expectations and will need to demonstrate a novel solution, unusual insight or application, and “out of the box” thinking.