Friday, May 23, 2014

Update 21 May 2014 - Science Literacy

Kia ora tātou,

Week three already!  What have you tried this term that is new in your literacy programme?  What successes and challenges have you had that you could share?

Thanks to Angela, Tina, Leone, Marcia and Terrianne for taking the time to share their inquiries with us. You can fill out the form and check responses here.  Lets see how we can collaborate and share our successes and challenges!  As we reflect on our wonderings and our inquiry, what goals do we set for this term?

Science Literacy
This week I had the privilege of talking with Dr Kate Rice, National Coordinator of Science Education, based at the University of Otago.  

What is scientific literacy?
Scientific Literacy is described in the PISA report as “the capacity to use scientific knowledge to identify questions and to draw evidence based conclusions in order to understand and help make decisions about the natural world and the changes made to it by human activity.”
Why is scientific literacy important?
It is the basis of science in daily life.  If you are going to make decisions you need to understand and be scientifically literate to make decisions about issues in the world.   Whether or not to buy organic food, is it healthier for you? Scientific literacy enables us to make everyday decisions as well as thoughts and actions about larger local and worldwide issues, using scientific evidence rather than assumptions and emotive ideas.
How do we develop and nurture scientific literacy?
Recognise where to start, what is evidence, what is data, how to use this to make inferences and identify patterns and trends.  Starting really simple, looking at the evidence and re-thinking our ideas.  Teachers and students need to work collaboratively to question and develop a passion and an inquisitiveness about things in the world around them, little as well as HUGE.  It can start as simply as a nature table and a magnifying glass in the classroom. Annotated diagrams are a rich way for children to record their observations, reasonings or suggestions, and enable learners to more easily document their ideas than using formal descriptions and investigative write-ups. The Science exemplars online are a wonderful resource.
What resources support scientific literacy?
A nature table and magnifying glass are a great start.  No special scientific equipment is needed.   Journal stories are a rich source of diagrams and tables to unpack and discuss, allowing children to surface their assumptions and discuss their ideas.  The Connected series of journals are also a rich resource.  
Please take time to check out the science exemplars.
You can use these with students to show progress, to model what it might look like, to identify the next steps for student learning and our teaching.  They show examples of summarising data as tables and graphs, as well as how things work.

An example of the power of developing scientific literacy
An example of the power of developing scientific literacy and the way it can build children’s confidence comes from Thornbury School.  As part of the ALL support for a group of six students who were reluctant readers and writers, science was chosen as a focus as all the students were interested in exploring and finding out about things.  The first approach was to get these students to actually articulate what they were noticing in an investigation, to talk about what they saw happening, where the key aspect was to get them to make statements rather than just say words like “shiny” “bubbles”, to there are lots of bubbles coming from the powder”.  The next step was getting the children to draw what they saw and label the parts which then progressed them writing their statements next to the diagrams. From there the children were supported to use these ideas to write a conclusion. Over time the children all began to write and produce written work regularly especially where it was around a science activity. Writing development continued to progress with these children.  

A HUGE thank you to Kate for a wonderful insight into Scientific Literacy.  I look forward to rich discussion around this post.  This week we are sharing Science links to support your programmes.  Maybe you can add links to these from your blogs, or websites.

Science Links

  • Science: a blended e-learning approach A group developed for primary school teachers and students to share ideas, resources and strategies that motivate interest and participation in science, and making science relevant to everyday living.
  • National Geographic Kids Play games, watch videos, learn about animals, and places, and get fun facts on the National Geographic Kids website.
  • Wonderopolis A wonder a day
  • Science Kids  - Fun science and technology for kids.
  • MythBusters is a science entertainment television program. Lots of videos to spark discussion.
  • The Exploratorium is a twenty-first-century learning laboratory, an eye-opening, always-changing, playful place to explore and tinker.
  • WickEd science interactives - engaging curriculum-based learning activities in English and te reo Māori. The activities have a literacy, numeracy or ESOL focus, and students can use the activities in a independent or in a facilitated way.


NZLA - the 37th New Zealand Literacy Association Conference. Register now.
CLESOL - the 14th National Conference for Community Languages and ESOL. Register now.
Ngā mihi nui
Anne Kenneally
Literacy Online Facilitator
CORE Education
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