Science Goals: Science Content and Process

General Goal: The CORI science goals for students under this intervention fall into three broad categories all integrated and leading to the overall goal of Science Literacy. These categories are essential to science literacy but are distinct with respect to engagement and cognitive skills required. The three goal categories are: (1) Science Process Skills Goals, (2) Science Content Goals, and (3) Educational Science Concepts Goals. Thus, we seek to develop and encourage the ability to observe, infer, and theorize (Science Process Skills Goals), using concrete and verifiable information about the natural world (Science Content Goals) in order to discover and/or recognize patterns of nature that describe and drive biological interactions among plants, animals, and their environments (Educational Science Concepts Goals). By mastering these goals students will gain a cogent understanding of science and how science progress is achieved.

For example, in Grade 3 earth science, students learn about local environment features. They classify Earth features into landforms (e.g., forests, deserts, mountains, grasslands) and water forms (e.g., rivers, oceans, polar regions). They identify all features of land and water forms that animals (e.g., birds, fish, snails) use for survival. Students identify adaptations of living organisms to all biomes. They recognize that survival of animals in all places on Earth depends upon Earth's natural resources. Students explain how these animals survive on landforms and water systems in terms of the biological principles of: feeding, locomotion, predation, defense, communication, competition, reproduction, respiration, and adjustment to habitat. In Life science, students learn that all living things can be compared based on similarities and differences, and that they need air, water, and nutrients from their habitat to survive.

For both Earth and Life Science, to explain survival of plants and animals on land and in water biomes, students learn these nine concepts of ecology:

  • All plants and animals have behaviors, traits, and adaptations designed to ensure reproduction of its species.
  • Communication is critical to all aspects of the life of plants and animals.
  • All plants and animals must have adaptations for defense in order to survive.
  • Because most critical resources are shared and in limited supply competition in plants and animals is often observed.
  • While feeding on plants is very common, predation is a frequently observed interaction among animals.
  • The search for food and the interactions involved in feeding are critical if animals and plants are to acquire the nutrition needed for growth and development.
  • Locomotion allows organisms to undertake all needed requirements of life and usually reflects a close adaptation to their habitat.
  • Respiration is an essential process for the acquisition of oxygen, without which most life cannot proceed.
  • Physical and behavioral characteristics of plants and animals that enable them to survive in a specific habitat- adjustment to habitat.

In Grade 4 the concept of niche replaces respiration. Niche refers to the function of a species in a habitat through the use of resources and its contribution to other species' survival.

This knowledge of biological principles has different layers, with concepts, content, and supporting information about science phenomena. This knowledge may be represented in rubrics as described in previous publications and portions of the teacher development framework. The chart on the next page presents examples.

Science Processing Skills: Using Educational Science Goals To Enhance Science Content
Science Concept By Highlighting
Science Content (Trait)
Reproduction Egg Laying, Mating, Sexual Communication
Communication Songs / Chirps / Odors / Chemicals / Patterns / Colors / Shape / Behavior
Defense Types of Bodies / Types of Appendages / Camouflage / Warning Colors / Mimicry / Where in the Habitat They Live / How They Move / Scales / Shell / Teeth / Movement in Groups / Eyes
Competition Conflict / Amount of Available Food / Size of Organisms / Feeding Preference (Specialization of Food Type or General Feeder / Morphological or Behavioral Adaptations
Predation Chasing or Seeking Other Animals / Running or Hiding / Behavioral Adaptations for Chasing, Seeking Other Animals, Running, or Hiding / Types of Mouths and Feeding / Types of Bodies / Types of Appendages / Camouflage / Warning Colors / Mimicry / Where in the Habitat They Live / How They Move / Teeth
Feeding Teeth / Location in Habitat / Response to Other Animals / Eyes
Locomotion Feet / Fins / Tail / Ways of Swimming / Suction Cup / Webbed Feet
Respiration Gills / Lungs / Skin
Environmental Conservation Diversity of Animals and Plants / pollutants / invasive species
Adjustment to Habitat Physical and behavioral characteristics of plants and animals that enable them to survive in a specific habitat- penguin has webbed feet; polar bear has thick fur; camels can store water
Niche Function of species – dam building / recycling / scavenging / population control / habitat conservation

Science Process Skills Goals

Science process skills goals refer to the development of the ability to obtain and use scientific facts, recognize the principles those facts reveal, and how this ability is linked to the capacity for scientific inquiry. Further, they reflect the ability to observe, analyze, synthesize, compare and contrast scientific observations. These goals are essential for understanding the scientific process and contribute to emerging science literacy. The goals for students will be to master the skills and processes needed to effectively observe scientific phenomena, ask relevant and informed questions, gather and compare appropriate information, and formulate an informed assessment of scientific concepts and phenomena.

Observation of scientific phenomena. Development of the ability to use all senses to determine the nature and details of a living organism and/or interactions among organisms, or between an organism and its environment, is referred to as Observation of Scientific Phenomena. Further, it reflects the ability to translate perceived information into organized data and conceptual thought. This includes:

  • Ability to perceive details of physical, behavioral, and ecological aspects of living organisms and their environments.
  • Ability to categorize and to organize the information gathered from observation as well as other sources.
  • Ability to combine and to compare, in a logical form, the information from personal observation and from external sources.

Analysis and synthesis of scientific fact. Refers to the ability to organize perceived information and incorporate the new information with known or available information, with the aim of developing novel perspectives, including the following:

  • Ability to generate questions that reflect an understanding of the scientific phenomena observed and information gathered.
  • Ability to determine the information that is necessary to understand a scientific phenomenon.
  • Ability to know whether information provides direct evidence for the scientific issues in question.
  • Ability to determine differences in approaches to answer scientific questions.
  • Ability to recognize the applicability of scientific concepts to other natural systems.

Instructional Practices for Supporting Science Learning

Teachers facilitate the development of students' science learning by the following teaching practices focused on the different science goals. Science lessons begin with informal observations of plants and animals in local environments. These are followed by extended and focused observations in the classroom. Both of these activities are paired with relevant books and other reading materials. Next, students do experiments to investigate some of the things they have observed. The experiments involve manipulating independent variables (e.g., heat) and recording the effects on dependent variables (e.g., behavior of a certain insect).

Teachers initially lead students in whole classroom groupings and smaller groups in performing the initial observations. In both the observations and the experiments students record the data they obtain on charts and other records. Groups collate this information, and some of it is entered into each student's portfolio. Groups of students organize this information into presentations for other students.

The two six-week subunits of CORI are divided into the following segments. Students first observe and personalize (Weeks 1 and 2) by conducting observations in local habitats, on a field trip, and back in their classrooms; and then designing an experiment to answer questions they have about the plants and animals they are studying. During search and retrieve (Week 3) students do different science activities and collect the data for their own experiment. Comprehend and integrate involves representing data in histograms and other formats, and making a group poster to describe the results of the experiment. Week 6, communicate to others, involves presenting the results of the group's experiment to the class. Weeks 7 through 12 repeat these science inquiry activities with the new content in the next subunit.