New Science Pathways Will Provide Computer Science Opportunities Across the Science Curriculum
Hands-on experiments are important learning experiences in the science classroom, but what if the phenomenon is too small, too large, too slow, too fast, too expensive or too dangerous to experiment with in the classroom? Or, what if there is no classroom, and labs are inaccessible due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Scientists use computer models, and simulations derived from these models, to study these phenomena. Students can too!
However, as useful as simulations are, students usually cannot access how they work, what assumptions were made in the design, or even what the designer intended them to show. Moreover, how do students—or teachers—know that the simulations are accurate and valid?
EDC and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) have launched the Science+C (+Computing) Pathway to college for Massachusetts High School Students, with this concept in mind. This Science+C pathway will modernize core science courses required for graduation by embedding the use of rich computational tools and methods to advance and accelerate understanding of science phenomena and computational thinking (CT) and design. Students will learn and use NetLogo, a powerful (and free) computer modeling environment, to work with models that they can decode, analyze, and use as experimental testbeds to conduct their own virtual experiments. Importantly, students will also be able to modify models to reflect their own scientific understanding or to answer new questions.
Science+C’s approach addresses an uneven distribution in the availability of computer science courses in Massachusetts high schools. Schools won’t have to make room for yet another strand of study, and all students will have the chance to learn and practice CT skills—preparation particularly beneficial for those who pursue future endeavors in STEM+C fields.
Funded by an NSF STEM+C grant, Science+C encompasses three phases: 1) designing and developing three new +C courses (Biology+C, Chemistry+C, and Physics+C) by adapting and refining existing instructional resources; 2) integrating them into existing course frameworks to form Science+C courses; and 3) studying the impact of these courses on student learning outcomes in science. Teachers will be offered year-round professional development (PD) to support implementation of the Science+C courses.
Despite the unexpected impact of the COVID-19 virus, Science+C is moving forward! EDC’s Joyce Malyn-Smith oversees and guides the project; Irene Lee is leading the curriculum development and Kirsten Peterson the professional development; and Caroline Parker and Becca Schillaci are leading the research, with Suhina Minocha assisting. Heidi Larson manages social media and communications, and Lydia Perry is our project coordinator. DESE’s Anne DeMallie, project co-director, is building relationships with schools and teachers, and has already brought on a set of biology, chemistry, and physics teachers to pilot the curricula. David Reider is serving as project evaluator. See our Staff page to learn more about us.
Students to Engage in Computer Science – While learning Chemistry, Physics, and Biology (Curriculum)
Teachers Participate in Science + Computer Science Professional Development (PD)