Issues and Science is situational based. For each unit, students are presented with a real-life scenario they are trying to solve. Each activity builds upon one another and all of them use different approaches to teaching the concepts. Some activities you model, or design a lab, while others are reading focused and rely on making hypotheses or looking at data to come up with solutions. The activities are age-appropriate and engage all students. It is the first curriculum that I have used in my 18 years of teaching that allows students to develop understanding of useful vocabulary and scientific concepts through the activities provided. Making mistakes is okay! The "light-bulb" moments are incredible and I promise, they will come!
The student work varies depending on the unit, grade level, and activity, but most of the activities are completed in class. At the beginning of each activity, a suggested length of time is given to complete the activity. Some activities need more time, whereas others might move more quickly. As we all know, not all students or classes are the same, but as educators, we are the ones who know what it takes to make our students feel successful. At the end of each activity, there are analysis questions that can be assigned, assessed, or simply talked about as a whole class. The Issues and Science middle school science curriculum allows for a lot of flexibility for the teacher. I love it!
I also love the variety of tasks and the opportunities for students to come up with conclusions on their own or with their team. It is always exciting in my room! Kids are enthusiastic, engaged, and learning how to communicate with one another on a whole new level, which is incredible to see. I believe it's the modeling, building, designing, and collecting their own data, that allow them to really take ownership of their work.
I think the biggest shift for me in teaching from Issues and Science was allowing students to develop their own understanding by giving each activity a guiding question and a set of useful vocabulary. In our past texts, vocabulary words were defined and given to the students, often times with few examples or explanations to follow. For special education students, science vocabulary was difficult for them to relate to because they rarely "saw" or "experienced" the words in action. With Issues and Science, useful vocabulary are presented multiple times throughout a unit and students really feel confident when they can explain ideas and concepts in their own words. It's a huge change for me and for them, but definitely a change that is extremely meaningful for everyone in our room!