Science Offers New Tools for Educators and Students

This resource is an article written for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) online newsletter. Science in the Classroom (SiTC) is an initiative for higher-education science educators, launched in October 2013 with support from the National Science Foundation, “designed to help demystify how scientists build a basis for understanding the world.”

The AAAS publication Science opened its resource materials in order to introduce concepts to students in settings such as community colleges, where large, intricate laboratory experiments may be cost-prohibitive. An educator who participated in the initiative reports his own experience using resources that have now been made freely available to educators by AAAS. He explains that his students broadened their knowledge of experimental design, science writing, and terminology by studying two SiTC papers on a gene that directs leaf shapes in the Brassicaceae family of plants and the mechanism that triggers flowering in one member of that plant family (Arabidopsis thaliana). Half of the class looked first at one paper, then at the other, creating a glossary, reference annotations, and questions. Students also peer-reviewed each other’s work and wrote “mini-grant proposals” and reviews. By analyzing, annotating, and reviewing two Science papers as part of a SiTC exercise, students improved their scientific vocabulary and critical-thinking skills. For their contributions to the growing SiTC stockpile of study materials, the students will also all receive bylines on the Science website.

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This September 2014 online publication serves as an opportunity for higher-education-institution educators to learn about SiTC and to extend the vision of the NGSS to community colleges.  SiTC organizers said that they are eager to recruit additional students and teachers to participate in the project. Each SiTC exercise includes a synopsis of a Science study, broken down into five essential components, so that students who may not be familiar with all of the paper’s terminology can still understand the study’s main question, hypothesis, experiment, results, and conclusions. Free links to related news and policy articles in Science provide explanation and context. New content is being posted twice a month to the SiTC site, on the second and fourth Thursdays at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Availability of scientific papers through SiTC, and dissemination of information about this program, provides opportunities for a professional learning community to use these resources. They may also extend to high school contexts, for those interested in having access to real data and scientific documentation.