Science and Technology Concepts Program™: Grades 1–4
Science and Technology Concepts Program™: Grades 1-4
Lead Applicant and Partner
The Science and Technology Concepts Program™ (STC Program™) for grades 1–4, the lead applicant, was developed by the Smithsonian and funded by the National Science Foundation.
Scale-Up For Iowa
The STC Program (grades 1–4) is intended to help elementary teachers and students establish a solid foundation in science. It is well-suited for scale-up across Iowa’s urban and rural populations.
The STC Program (grades 1–4) is a comprehensive, research-based inquiry curriculum of instructional units that explore life, earth, and physical sciences and technological design.
The STC Program (grades 1–4) provides students with a curricula to fully address science and Common Core standards and to develop a STEM foundation for students by providing opportunities for engaging with natural phenomena, technology, engineering design challenges, and math. The program helps all students develop 21st-century, age-appropriate scientific habits while building on prior knowledge and experiences, and allows them to apply knowledge and problem-solving strategies to real-world problems. Developing scientific knowledge and attitudes opens paths to STEM careers and produces scientifically literate citizens.
Based on research that shows children learn science best through concrete experiences, each unit builds on existing knowledge and challenges students with activities and concepts through a carefully constructed conceptual sequence. Later units challenge students to take responsibility for their own learning, guiding them to plan and conduct their own experiments, design their own data tables, and analyze their own experimental results. Students work independently and collaboratively to investigate; question; make and test predictions; record, reflect on, and share their findings; and apply scientific skills and knowledge to new situations. These real-world skills help prepare scientifically literate students for high school, college, and STEM careers.
To help prepare Iowa’s students for future success in STEM careers, the Science and Technology Concepts Program™ (STC Program™) provides elementary students in grades 1–4 with rich, practices-based experiences in life, earth, and physical science, including an interdisciplinary STEM approach totechnology, engineering, math, and beyond with social studies, language arts, art, and music. According to the nonprofit, nonpartisan group, Change the Equation (http://changetheequation.org/about-change-equation), there are 2.7 workers in Iowa for every non-STEM–related job, while there 3.4 STEM jobs for every career STEM worker (http://vitalsigns.changetheequation.org/tcpdf/vitalsigns/newsletter.php?statename=Iowa ).
Project Initial Site, Scope, and Delivery
To address the statewide need for elementary science and math education, the Alabama Department of Education created the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) in 2000. The core principle of AMSTI is that students learn math and science skills best by doing math and science, and then applying these skills to their daily lives. The selected curriculums for AMSTI meet specific criteria, including age-appropriate development of knowledge, process, and application standards as defined by organizations like the National Research Council, and an extensive professional development model. AMSTI uses the STC Program in all grades from kindergarten to eighth grade.
AMSTI schools are consistently recognized by educators and businesses as exemplary models for teaching math and science. By implementing AMSTI, participating schools have been consistently able to outperform matched non-AMSTI schools on every standardized test given by the state. As a result, AMSTI receives requests annually from schools that want to join the initiative, scaling up the use of the STC Program to more schools and classrooms each year. Currently, 11 AMSTI sites in Alabama work to serve about 47% of Alabama’s public schools.
The Leadership Model
The leadership model for the STC Program (grades 1–4) includes customizable professional development packages from Carolina. A trainer can prepare teachers directly to deliver content and instruction to students, or trainers can prepare lead teachers to train other teachers within their school or district. All trainings are program and kit specific, and led by experienced, highly trained educators. In addition, Carolina’s superior customer service team is always available to respond to any questions or concerns that may arise.
The Intended Audience
The STC Program (grades 1–4) is based on research that shows children learn science best through concrete experiences. Educational activities should relate directly to students’ understanding of the world, with youngsters investigating scientific phenomena first hand. As they work cooperatively to investigate, students maintain science notebooks, participate in small-group and whole-class discussions, and complete record sheets. Extensions for each lesson build on the skills previously developed, allowing students to apply the concepts in real-world contexts. The STC Program includes units that explore earth science, life science, and physical science, with technological design. Although each unit can be taught independently, using the units in sequence over time will build a complete science curriculum.
View an overview video: Science and Technology Concepts Program™: Grades 1-4
Programs Goals, Objectives, and Assessment
The STC Program™ (grades 1–4) aims to provide students with a curricula to fully address science and Common Core standards and to develop a STEM foundation for students by providing them with opportunities to engage directly with natural phenomena, varied technology, engineering design challenges, and mathematics. The program aims to help students develop 21st-century, age-appropriate scientific habits while building on prior knowledge and experiences and allowing students to apply knowledge and problem-solving strategies to real-world problems. Developing scientific knowledge and attitudes in all students opens paths to STEM careers and produces scientifically literate citizens.
As they work to meet this goal, students develop academic vocabulary and writing, scientific knowledge, and analytical skills at an age-appropriate level during the course of each 6–9 week unit. Skills students develop in one unit can be applied and expanded as students move through the other units. The unit design fosters student learning while providing educators clearly defined objectives in each lesson. Lesson planners detail benchmarks linked directly to the lesson’s objectives. Additionally, suggested outcomes are included with each unit so educators can formatively assess the following goals:
The primary goals of the STC Program (grades 1–4) are:
- to provide students with curriculum that fully addresses science standards through inquiry
- to present opportunities for students to engage directly with natural phenomena, tools of science, real-world problems, and technical design challenges
- to help children develop age-appropriate scientific habits of mind while building on students’ prior knowledge and experiences, allowing them to apply their knowledge and problem-solving strategies in new contexts
- to develop scientific knowledge and attitudes in all students to open paths to careers in science and technology
- to develop scientific reasoning and critical thinking
Assessing student progress is an integral component of inquiry-based science; in the STC Program (grades 1–4), assessment emerges naturally from the lessons, allowing teachers to monitor students as they work through a unit in addition to evaluating their understanding at its conclusion through a more formal assessment. Each unit in the STC Program (grades 1–4) includes pre- and post-unit assessment strategies in addition to various ongoing formative assessment opportunities linked with each STC lesson objective and a comprehensive summative assessment. Guidelines for monitoring student progress are built into each lesson, incorporating teachers’ observations of classroom activities, student work products, science notebooks and writings, oral communications, embedded assessments, and student self-assessments. The assessment section of each unit was evaluated by the Program Evaluation and Research Group of Lesley College, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Evidence Base
A science education program that is judged to be effective typically includes a number of elements (such as exemplary curriculum, professional development, and community support) that work together. Perhaps the most recognizable indicator of a science education program’s effectiveness, however, is the outcome of student assessment—student test scores. Educational studies show that student learning increases after the use of an inquiry-based science curriculum like the STC Program™ for grades 1–4. Remarkably, the studies also indicate that this benefit extends to subjects like reading, writing, language development, and math.
The US Department of Education has just released a five-year, $3 million study that was conducted by the Southeast Regional Educational Laboratory SERVE Center at UNC Greensboro, the research firm Empirical Education, Inc., and the Academy for Education Development. This randomized controlled trial shows that the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) is significantly effective in increasing student achievement. In math, the gains are equivalent to an extra 28 days of classroom instruction (https://docs.alsde.edu/documents/55/NewsReleases2012/2-21-2012_AMSTI%20study%20results.pdf).
The study began in 2006, when AMSTI was selected for one of the largest math and science studies, with approximately 30,000 students and 780 teachers in 82 schools. The study included an analysis of student achievement, teacher practice, demographic data, professional training logs, classroom observations, professional development surveys, interviews with teachers and principals, and online surveys.
Findings showed statistically significant and meaningful student achievement in AMSTI schools. Students who attended AMSTI schools and classes for one year showed a gain of two percentile points on the SAT-10 mathematics problem solving assessment when compared with students who did not attend AMSTI schools. These gains compare to an average of 28 extra days of schooling in math. Exploratory results indicated students who attended AMSTI schools and classes for at least two years showed a gain of four percentile points when compared with students who did not attend AMSTI schools. These gains compare to an average of 50 extra days of schooling in math.
While the results for science were not statistically significant in the first year, over a two-year period, students in AMSTI schools showed significant gains when compared to students in non-AMSTI schools, with a five percent gain in scores.
In addition, despite the fact that AMSTI does not explicitly teach reading skills, after one year, students in AMSTI schools showed a gain of two percentile points on the SAT-10 reading assessment when compared with students who did not attend AMSTI schools. These gains compare to an average of 40 extra days of schooling.
Program Methodology and Content
The STC Program™ for grades 1–4 presents coherent science strands designed around current knowledge about how children learn. Skills and concepts are introduced sequentially at age-appropriate stages of the learning process. Each unit of a strand follows a carefully constructed conceptual sequence that uses an inquiry approach to build on student understanding and process skills. This approach utilizes hands-on investigations that help students learn basic science concepts, and learn them in depth. Using the STC Program (grades 1–4) develops students’ abilities to make predictions, explore causal relationships, discover patterns, and generate explanations based on observations. In addition, the materials appeal to the interests and needs of students from diverse cultural backgrounds. Keeping inquiry—and student discovery—at the heart of the learning process fosters both the desire and the ability to discover new things.
Beginning in first grade, students focus on observing, measuring, and identifying properties. In second and third grade, students begin to seek evidence and are able to recognize patterns and cycles. Fourth and fifth grade students identify cause-and-effect relationships and extend their senses. By the time they reach middle school, students are prepared to design and conduct their own controlled, investigative experiments. Critical-thinking skills are developed throughout the STC Program (grades 1–4), and students acquire new age-appropriate skills as they continue to use and strengthen existing ones.
The lessons of each STC Program unit (grades 1–4) follow a carefully constructed conceptual sequence. Because the science concepts and skills taught in later lessons build on those from earlier ones, all lessons should be included during unit instruction and taught in the sequence presented in the Teacher’s Guide. The lessons follow a four-stage research-based learning cycle developed specifically for the STC Program (grades 1–4) to facilitate inquiry and inform student learning. The learning cycle guides students to focus on prior knowledge through brainstorming and discussion, explore phenomena first hand, analyze the data they collect, and apply what they learn to new situations and contexts.
Research about how the brain functions and how students learn has given momentum to the curriculum integration approach to instruction—teaching subject areas according to their natural connections rather than in isolation from one another. Teaching across disciplines connects subjects in ways that reflect the real world, which in turn improves student understanding. The STC Program (grades 1–4) provides an instructional program that a teacher can use as a framework for integrating other areas of the elementary curriculum, such as reading, writing, math, and social studies.
All facets of a language arts program may be incorporated in the STC Program classroom in grades 1–4. Children develop their reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills as they complete record sheets, maintain science journals, read stories about the science topics they are studying, and share findings in both formal and informal settings. Reading, however, is given special emphasis in the STC Program (grades 1–4) because students who read well and widely build a strong foundation for learning in all areas of life.
Educational studies indicate that children are more likely to engage in a reading exercise when the literature is related to an activity in which they have just participated. In other words, the activity has made the reading exercise contextually relevant. The hands-on investigations in each STC Program unit (grades 1–4) provide a natural transition to literacy activities, and each unit offers a variety of literacy methods and materials that give students opportunities to practice their reading skills and improve their reading comprehension.
The STC Literacy Series, offered with units for grades 1–4, helps teachers link students’ science activities to learning in other areas of the curriculum, particularly language arts, history, and social studies. The books provide an excellent means to meet national and state standards. And the entire series of books uniquely highlights work being done by scientists at one of the world’s foremost museum complexes—the Smithsonian Institution.
The integration of mathematics with science activities occurs seamlessly within STC units for grades 1–4. Students develop math skills as they measure, weigh, compare, design data tables, and create graphs and charts. Stimulating ideas for the integration of other subjects (such as social studies and the arts) with science appear as extensions in every lesson. The extensions offer ideas for field trips, visits from local experts, ways to relate science to art and music, and a host of other activities. Each STC Teacher’s Guide for grades 1–4 includes a bibliography that provides information on science trade books, software, and other learning resources.
Iowa Core Curriculum Alignment
All STC Program units for grades 1–4 meet the Science as Inquiry standards SI.1–SI.7. The STC Program units for grades 1–4 correlate to the Iowa Core Standards as shown below:
- Organisms: ES.1, LS.1, LS.2, LS.3, LS.5, PS.1
- The Life Cycle of Butterflies: LS.1, LS.2, LS.3, LS.5, PS.1
- Weather: ES.2, ES.3, LS.3, PS.1
- Soils: ES.1, LS.1, LS.3, PS.1
- Solids and Liquids: ES.1, LS.4, PS.1, PS.2, PS.3
- Changes: ES.1, ES.2, ES.3, LS.2, LS.4, PS.1, PS.2
- Comparing and Measuring: LS.1, LS.5, PS.1
- Balancing and Weighing: PS.1, PS.3
- Plant Growth and Development: LS.1.1, LS.1.2, LS.2, LS.3, LS.4, PS.1
- Animal Studies: LS.1.1, LS.1.2, LS.1.3, LS.2, LS.3, PS.1
- Microworlds: LS1.1, LS1.2, LS1.3, LS.3, LS.4, PS.1, PS.2
- Rocks and Minerals: ES.1, ES.2, ES.3, ES.5, PS.1, PS.3, PS.4
- Land and Water: ES.1, ES.2, ES.4, LS.1.1, LS.1.2, PS.1
- Chemical Tests: ES.1, ES.2, ES.4, LS.1.1, LS.1.2, LS.4, PS.1, PS.2
- Food Chemistry: LS1.1, LS1.2, LS.3, LS.4, PS.1, PS.2
- Floating and Sinking: ES.2, LS1.1, LS1.2, PS.1, PS.2
- Sound: LS.1.1, LS.1.2, LS.3, LS.4, PS.1, PS.2, PS.4
- Electric Circuits: ES.2, ES.4, LS.1.1, LS.1.2, LS.3, PS.1, PS.3, PS.4
- Motion and Design: LS.1.1, LS.1.2, PS.1, PS.5
STEM and 21st-Century Skills
Every Science and Technology Concepts Program™ unit helps students build a solid STEM foundation by integrating 21st-century skills such a critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and communicating by encouraging students to ask questions, seek and test explanations, and draw conclusions through creative, inquiry-based learning methods. Pair and small-group work increase communication skills and help foster teamwork, both among classmates and between teacher and student. Students must apply past experiences to answer questions such as, How do I get this system to work? Groups test possible explanations by experimenting and innovating with the provided equipment. Students validate an explanation by observing that the system actually works. Further, students draw conclusions by working with other groups to compare and contrast what worked and what other questions were asked. As a result, students build a grade-level-appropriate concept of systems. Students are notebooking throughout the entire unit, tracking questions they have and noting the results of tested experimentations. In cross-curricular extensions to other areas of STEM and language arts, students are able to investigate their own questions and real-world applications of the concepts they explore, prompting innovation and the generation of new ideas or products. While students are encouraged to apply previous experience when working through the unit, Teacher’s Guides and kit materials help the instructor guide students in new ways to discover science by investigating rather than by rote learning. These new and unexpected situations foster a more active learning environment in which student teams and the instructor work together to build real-world STEM experience and help develop more learning skills.
Scalability for Iowa
Science and Technology Concepts Program™ (STC) units for grades 1–4 are flexible and adaptable. Each STC title is designed to be taught as a complete unit; each unit lasts 6–9 weeks, depending on how many times science is taught per week. Lessons are written for children working in small groups or pairs, but can easily be adapted for whole-class instruction. Lesson extensions offer options for further investigation by individuals, small groups, or the class. These groupings can be applied in rural or urban areas and in classes with a diverse mix of learners, as shown by the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative’s (AMSTI) statewide implementation. Many materials in STC kits for grades 1–4 are reusable, but consumable items are available in convenient refurbishment sets. The STC Program (grades 1–4) is scalable in terms of professional development as well. Carolina’s professional development staff is comprised of a cadre of consultants who are current and former science teachers. Many of these staff have used the program in their own classrooms. They have undergone rigorous training on the kits and can prepare teachers to utilize the kits, or train lead teachers to use the kits and train a core of teachers themselves. Finally, these same consultants and the Carolina Sales Manager for Iowa can help communicate standards for implementation across one region, several regions, or the entire state.
The Smithsonian and the National Academies came together to address the critical problem presented by the 1985 report, A Nation at Risk, which called attention to how far American students lagged behind the developed world in science and math education. Their mission was to improve the teaching and learning of science and to actively promote science education reform by championing current research and best practices.
The National Academies and the Smithsonian provide the research and scientific and engineering expertise to inform its services and products. The National Academies are comprised of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council. The National Academies combine to work outside the framework of government to ensure independent advice on matters of science, technology, and medicine. Knowledge of research and application of best practices are critical to the development of effective Smithsonian programs.
Through the Smithsonian Curriculum Development Center and in partnership with its only publisher, Carolina Biological Supply Company, the Smithsonian developed the Science and Technology Concepts Program™ (STC Program™) with funding from the National Science Foundation. The research-based and inquiry-centered STC Program aligns with the standards of the National Research Council. Further, the program’s pedagogical foundations stem from proven research that indicates students learn best through hands-on investigation and concrete experience rather than the theoretical frameworks of most major curricula.
Existing Scalable Partnerships
As the developer of the STC Program, the Smithsonian has worked closely with Carolina Biological Supply Company, the STC Program’s only publisher and producer of Smithsonian-approved kits, materials, and apparatus. This partnership has helped the curriculum gain national recognition as an exemplary science program with strong content and pedagogy. In fact, nearly 20% of American students learn science concepts and process skills with an STC unit. Today, the Smithsonian and Carolina continue to revise, update, and supplement the existing curriculum units to ensure that they continue to offer the best materials and curriculum that is aligned with current standards. To complement this partnership, many organizations support the STC curriculum:
- Science and Technology Concepts Program™ Sponsors
- National Science Foundation
- Smithsonian Institution
- US Department of Defense
- US Department of Education
- John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
- The Dow Chemical Company Foundation
- Amoco Foundation, Inc.
- Hewlett-Packard Company
- Smithsonian Institution Educational Outreach Fund
- Smithsonian Women’s Committee
- Carolina Biological Supply Company
We know that students have differences in readiness, language, interests, preferences in learning, skills, knowledge, and experiences. We must also recognize that no two children learn in identical ways, and that an enriched environment for one student is not necessarily enriched for another. That’s why STC Program™ units for grades 1–4 were developed to meet the needs of all students, including ELL, gifted and talented, and special education.
- Building on Students’ Current Knowledge and Experience
STC Program™ units identify where students are in their current knowledge of science and move forward to build on that knowledge. By asking students what they already know and what they want to learn about science, teachers can build on students’ current knowledge and ensure they are interested in what they learn.
- Varying Instruction for All Learning Styles
Because today’s classrooms are so diverse, the STC Program™ (grades 1–4) has been designed to accommodate a variety of learning styles. By using varying instructional techniques such as guided, cooperative learning and discussion, you encourage student-directed learning and capture multiple learning styles. Students will have a sense of leadership and involvement.
- Utilizing Assorted Investigation Equipment
By utilizing various classroom materials such as texts, videos, scientific tools, magazines, and computers, you provide students multiple mediums to optimize learning. STC Program™ (grades 1–4) lessons also lend themselves to the incorporation of Smart Boards, microscopes, graphing calculators, and Probeware.
- Student Learning Communities
Because students start with varying levels of readiness, differences in learning, and unique perspectives, the dynamics of the group foster collaboration. Such interaction involves all students in these learning communities to actively take part in the investigations and learn from the varied perspectives of their classmates.
- Individual Accountability
The STC Program™ (grades 1–4) also offers a range of differentiation by providing students the ability to work at their own pace and to learn and build on their own experiences. As they do so, students are given greater responsibility for their own learning as they plan and conduct their own experiments and procedures. This hands-on involvement teaches children to think for themselves as they become active explorers.
Carolina is excited to explore partnerships with Iowa STEM education leaders, corporate sponsors, and local businesses to further benefit Iowa’s students. These potential partnerships may also help sustain the use of the Science Technology Concepts Program™ (grades 1–4) in Iowa. As stated earlier, Carolina is willing and prepared to reach out to STEM supporters throughout Iowa in order to explore partnership opportunities favorable to all involved.
To mitigate potential challenges in the statewide scale-up of the STC Program (grades 1–4), the leadership model includes customizable professional development packages from Carolina. Each professional development session can target the specific needs of teachers and their specific kits. A trainer can prepare teachers directly to deliver content and instruction to students, or trainers can prepare lead teachers to train other teachers within their school or district. All trainings are program and kit specific, and led by experienced, highly-trained educators. In addition, Carolina’s superior customer service team is always available to respond to any questions or concerns that may arise.
Sustaining the Program
Through a comprehensive series of lessons in each unit, students learn important science content and investigative skills that carry throughout the program. STC Program™ units for grades 1–4 are based on a learning model in which students continually expand on their understanding of science concepts through direct observation, investigation, and experimentation. The units follow a learning cycle that gives students an opportunity to explore science concepts and phenomena firsthand, and then allows them time for reflection and to apply their learning.
How LEA’s Can Continue After Funding Is Exhausted
To keep stakeholder organizations actively involved, Carolina maintains a high level of customer satisfaction with participating programs by making regular contact to ensure everything is working as described. In order to provide the lowest possible cost, STC kits for grades 1–4 include both reusable and consumable items for two full classroom uses. The consumable items are sold in complete refurbishment kits as well as individuals line items that can be purchased in bulk. With proper maintenance, the reusable items in the kit can be used to teach the unit multiple times without replacement. In order to sustain the program once scale-up funds are exhausted, cost-sharing for consumable items will be available for educators through participation in additional professional development sessions. This can extend the use of a single kit for an additional year.
The STC Program (grades 1–4) can be sustained through professional development as well. Carolina’s professional development staff is comprised of a cadre of consultants who are current and former science teachers. Many of these staff have used the program in their own classrooms. They have undergone rigorous training on the kits and can prepare teachers to utilize the kits, or train lead teachers to use the kits and train a core of teachers themselves. These professional development sessions are ideal for educating multiple teachers in a district/community, and allow for highly detailed implementation instruction. These same consultants and the Carolina Sales Manager for Iowa can help communicate standards for implementation across one region, several regions, or the entire state. These professional development sessions are available at the convenience of the STEM regional managers or LEAs in Iowa.
- Materials Cost - Kit Retail $1,412.95
- Cost to host a regional professional development and/or event, if required by your program. - $1,000
- Total $2,412.95
STC Program™ kits (grades 1–4) range in retail price from $520.95 to $1,412.95. One kit can be used to teach 30 students for two consecutive uses. Refurbishment sets are available for purchase to replace consumable materials.
Cost to Host Regional Professional Development (if required)
Professional development training can be customized to your district’s needs, from an inquiry overview or content training for a specific program unit to a focused training on notebooking, assessment, or integration of literacy in the science classroom. Webinar-based training will be available. Professional development fees are $1,000 for the training dates.
As part of an in-kind cost share, Carolina Biological Supply Company will provide each educator awarded a scale-up grant for the STC Program™ for grades 1–4, and who attends the first STC professional development workshop with their own STC Program™ refurbishment set for the unit chosen (grades 1–4) to assist in sustaining the scale-up program for a longer duration in Iowa.
In addition, each educator awarded a scale-up grant for the STC Program™ and who attends the second STC professional development workshop will receive their own set of Carolina Science Notebooks to encourage student writing of their STEM understandings.