Thinking About an Elementary Science Education Curriculum:
Continuing the Conversation

Wil Franklin
Notes following 3 May meeting
Lansdowne Friends School
5 May 2006

Reflections on 3 May meeting with Lansdowne Friends:

I was encouraged by the first meeting with Lansdowne Friends faculty. The faculty seem to be practicing the very approaches that we promote and develop. The task at hand will not be about redefining approaches, but rather coordinating a more concerted effort to expand inquiry throughout a school wide curriculum and to lend technical and scientific scope when needed. For example, the development of the grounds as an outdoor learning environment seems well planned and headed in the right direction. I would just re-emphasize that the more varied the plantings and garden themes, the better the chance that the outdoor environment will generate fruitful questions to explore. For the above reasons, I anticipate a productive collaboration with this nascent partnership between Bryn Mawr College and Lansdowne Friends School.

Reflections on Prospectus for Lansdowne Friends School:

The prospectus reviewed three areas of the educational process that the emerging partnership between Bryn Mawr College and Lansdowne Friends School identified as important. The first is to go beyond "inquiry-based science" to exploratory education. The second is to maintain a semblance of science as a unique form of human endeavors and lastly, to not lose the classrooms as a "diagnostic tool".

My thoughts on the second and third points are that they are important concerns from this specific faculty and we should be sensitive to these concerns. Yet, given their stated concerns and general inertia resisting any type of change I donŐt think Bryn Mawr members of this collaboration have to worry about it. These concerns will be best handled within each classroom in a fashion best suited for each teacher and student dynamic.

As for developing exploratory education that is "transactional", I would like to draw all of our attention to two books:

Both of these books speak to the "transactional" classroom in different ways. Most relevant to me were three essential factors - risk, trust, and power. To begin the process of change in a classroom demands the teacher to take a risk with expected outcomes, but in order to engage students and make topics more relevant, the teacher must trust the students to choose significant and meaningful topics. This requires the teacher to relinquish some power as all-knowing director and subsume a co-learner position. These factors are important guiding principles for initiating immediate change in the classroom. Thus, if "transactional" classrooms are a goal, we should think specifically about personally implementing the above three factors.

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