Southwest Educational Development Laboratory

Classroom Compass
Volume 3 Number 1
Fall 1996

Eisenhower SCIMAST

Environments for Learning Science

National Science Education Standards,
Teaching Standard D

Teachers of science design and manage learning environments that provide students with the time, space, and resources needed for learning science.

Time, space, and materials are critical components of an effective science learning environment that promotes sustained inquiry and understanding. Creating an adequate environment for science teaching is a shared responsibility. Teachers lead the way in the design and use of resources, but school administrators, students, parents, and community members must meet their responsibility to ensure that the resources are available to be used. Developing a schedule that allows time for science investigations needs the cooperation of all in the school; acquiring materials requires the appropriation of funds; maintaining scientific equipment is the shared responsibility of students and adults alike; and designing appropriate use of the scientific institutions and resources in the local community requires the participation of the school and those institutions and individuals.

Teachers must be given the resources and authority to select the most appropriate materials and to make decisions about when, where, and how to make them accessible. Such decisions balance safety, proper use, and availability with the need for students to participate actively in designing experiments, selecting tools, and constructing apparatus, all of which are critical to the development of an understanding of inquiry.

The classroom is a limited environment. The school science program must extend beyond the walls of the school to the resources of the community. Our nation's communities have many specialists, including those in transportation, health-care delivery, communications, computer technologies, music, art, cooking, mechanics, and many other fields that have scientific aspects. Specialists often are available as resources for classes and for individual students. Many communities have access to science centers and museums, as well as to the science communities in higher education, national laboratories, and industry; these can contribute greatly to the understanding of science and encourage students to further their interests outside of school. In addition, the physical environment in and around the school can be used as a living lab-oratory for the study of natural phenomena. Whether the school is located in a densely populated urban area, a sprawling suburb, a small town, or a rural area, the environment can and should be used as a resource for science study. Working with others in their school and with the community, teachers build these resources into their work with students.

This excerpt is reprinted with permission from the National Science Education Standards. Copyright 1996 by the National Academy of Sciences. Courtesy of the National Academy Press, Washington, D. C.

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