Victorian early learning standards

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INTRODUCTION

Science is a way of understanding and making sense of the world and is an integral part of modern culture. The dynamic and ever changing nature of science and has pervaded culture and society for thousands of years. Every aspect of daily life is inconceivably influenced by science, scientific discovery and the technology resulting from this. The nature of science, and the knowledge, skills and values associated with this, will continue to impact the lives of students and of society as a whole, both in the present and well into the future.

To be effective in teaching science, educators must have a sound understanding of the underpinning principles, processes and values associated with this discipline. This includes a knowledge of keystone ideas and theories and scientific content areas (Fleer & Hardy, 2001). Educators should also heed the notion that science as a discipline is fallible; holding many unanswered questions. Developing an appreciation of the achievements, setbacks and the changing nature of science, and an understanding of the importance of questioning and hypothesising to formulate a personal point of view, will be useful in encouraging the "establishment of an underlying value position in students" (VCAA, 2005, p.7).

The Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) (Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2008) have been designed as a guide, rather than a complete curriculum. They highlight necessary content and state wide standards for students to accomplish during their compulsory years of school. The VELS documents are flexible, designed to be used in open ended ways to implement integrated programs that draw upon knowledge, skills and behaviours from a range of disciplines (Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2009). The importance of considering the unique backgrounds of students, their individual needs and the myriad methods of learning that can be applied, are emphasised in the VELS framework (Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2006).

The VELS for Science provide a large scope for implementation; however they do not accurately reflect the issues and considerations impacting the lives of students in the current environmental, cultural and economic climate. To illustrate the depth of this statement, the VELS for Science will be critiqued in light of environmental sustainability, cultural perspectives and rural education. It will be argued that the dominant culture is prevalent within this document recognising on a superficial level, some of these inclusions. Exclusions that postulate the underpinning values presented in the syllabus and perpetuate marginalisation will also be addressed. Subsequent recommendations will follow the critique, with strategies, adaptations and improvements suggested to enhance the relevance and application of the syllabus for students of today.

SYLLABUS

The VELS science curriculum document was developed in 2006 and incorporates varying elements of competency, which are presented as learning focus statements and standards. These consist of "dispositional facets (interest and curiosity), operational facets (creativity and problem solving) and cognitive facets (reasoning and critical thinking)" (VCAA, 2008, p.4).

Learning focus statements for levels 1 - 6 are provided, with progression points and standards for assessing and reporting, beginning at level 3 (grade 3-4). Prior to level 3, teachers are not obligated to include science in their planning, however it is suggested that learning in this domain by stimulated and nourished by encouraging scientific curiosity and learning in other curriculum areas (VCAA, 2008). This is a stark contrast to the syllabus documents of other states that provide outcomes and indicators for the early years of school.

Constructivist theories outline the potential benefits of active learning in the area of science, asserting that young children are inquisitive and form knowledge through hands on inquiry and engagement with concrete materials, experiences and the world around them (Koch, 2010). Learning in this way forms the basis for appreciation and development of scientific skills, attitudes and processes. By neglecting to present an educational framework for scientific learning in levels 1 -2, the VELS for Science fails to acknowledge the potential and capability of young children to cultivate scientific knowledge and understanding (Cross, 2001; Fleer, Jane, & Hardy, 2007)).

Sustainability

The demands of modern living and over population have led to increased pressure on global and local environments, resulting in the depletion and exploitation of resources (Gruenwald, 2004). This in turn has led to a rise in the level of unwanted by-products produced through oversupply and misuse, ensuing varying levels of pollution, climate change and flora and fauna reductions (Koch, 2010; Collier, 2004). Having a sustainable environment is vital in securing the prolongation of life on Earth, and is fundamental for the survival of all living things.

Sustainability refers to the notion of continuance; what is sustainable can be continued into the future. It " involves integrated ecological, personal, social and economic goals, and implies changes in practices by individuals and organisations" (Collier, 2004, p. 18). Put simply, it refers to the individual and community reduction of ecological footprints, whilst concurrently increasing quality of life and the longevity of society (Australian Government Department of Environment, Water Heritage and the Arts, 2010).

The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development suggests that syllabus documents embrace the notion of education for sustainability (EFS) by incorporating "attitudes, skills and knowledge into the curriculum that [will support students to make] informed decisions for the benefit of themselves and others, now and in the future, and to act upon these decisions" (UNDESD, 2010). The underpinning message in this policy and related industry agreements and plans, is to ensure that students are made aware of the impact of their actions on the environment, social structures and the economy, and that an awareness of how to limit or reduce their impact both individually and collectively, in ways that contribute to sustainability, is fostered (AGDEWHA, 2010; UNDESD, 2010). Whilst raising awareness is a pertinent issue, the Victorian Association for Environmental Education (2006) points out that EFS can potentially develop environmental sensitivities, altered attitudes and values, and a sense of responsibility through individual and collective participation in areas addressing sustainability. The same document suggests that the interdependent concepts of environmental education should be implemented in a cross curricular fashion, as opposed to being a focus in any once curriculum area.

It is clearly articulated within the VELS science domain, that sustainable relationships between living things and their environment will be a key focus. However there is little evidence within the remainder of the VELS science syllabus to support this notion. Sustainability is initially outlined on page 6 of the document where it states that the curriculum will emphasise and address "issues of sustainability at a local and global level" (VCAA, 2008, p.6). However It is not again mentioned until level 3 (grade 3 - 4), where the introduction of students to the "concept of a sustainable environment and their role in contributing to it though activities such as litter and recycling program...and investigation of the use of solar energy in cooking or transport" are mentioned. The standards that support the level 3 learning focus statement make no mention of sustainability or environmental education measures, and do not expand these initial assertions, providing educators without guidance as to how the focus statement should be implemented. Therefore the only reference that educators have to guide them is to go with the suggestion of including litter reduction, recycling programs, cooking with solar energy, or exploring solar transport. Whilst these are important components of education for sustainability, they can be interpreted superficially. Particularly by educators who are unsure of how to teach environmental education beyond conservative surface levels (Koch, 2010; Flowers & Chodkiewicz, 2009), which may result in selecting the topic of recycling programs over deeper issues such as exploration of landfill, waste and community management strategies. Teaching in this way will miss valuable opportunities for promoting depth of knowledge and the values and attitudes that could be engendered as part of a level 3 activist program that focuses on behavioural change.

The level 4 learning focus statement suggests that educators provide opportunities for students to "practise framing and investigating questions that interest them and are drawn from locally based issues; for example, sustainability of farming practices, comparative efficiencies of alternative forms and sources of energy used in the community, and the effectiveness of school recycling programs"(VELS, 2008, p.14).The level 4 standards compliment the preceding learning focus statement in proposing that educators teach students to investigate and explore "how sustainable practices have been developed and/or are applied in their local environment".

Recommendations:

Whilst some references to EFS have been made within the Level 3 and Level 4 components of the VELS science curriculum, these have been brief. To teach EFS effectively within this syllabus will require lateral thinking, a well developed knowledge of sustainability principles, and how to promote these through education about the environment, in the environment and for the environment (Victorian Association for Environmental Education, 2006). Many teachers may not be confident or knowledgeable enough in the area of EFS for this to occur, and will require specialised training and access to support documents and resources, in order to deliver an acceptable EFS program within the VELS science curriculum.

The VELS propose that EFS be implemented in a cross curricular manner intersecting all discipline areas, as no single learning area provides the essential knowledge and opportunities to enable students to contribute to sustainability. "Appropriate knowledge and skills must be interconnected throughout the learning years and across the disciplines if sustainability is to be achieved" (Victorian Association for Environmental Education, 2006). Investigation of other curriculum areas uncovered brief inclusions of EFS, however guidance within these was limited.

The value and importance of sustainability is highlighted in the introduction of the VELS science curriculum, however it is only addressed superficially, with entire omissions observed for Level 1 (prep) and Level 2 (grade 1 and 2). According to Gruenwald (2004) neglecting to provide environmental educational programs does not constitute the provision of comprehensive, lifelong EFS; nor does it equip students with the values, skills and knowledge required for protecting and preserving the environmental future (Singh, 2009). EFS should begin at Level 1, during the prep year of school, when attitudes can still be shaped. The guidelines and strategies suggested within the Sustainability Curriculum Framework (AGDEWHA, 2010) should be adapted for inclusion into the VELS science syllabus. This framework is a national document designed to provide guidance for curriculum developers and policy makers in the area of EFS, and clearly articulates the importance of provisions for educating children in the early years of school in the area of sustainability.

EFS needs to take a more prominent role within the VELS Science curriculum, with explicit inclusions highlighting content that will encourage students to develop dispositions for becoming environmentally conscious citizens of the future; equipped with the knowledge, skills and attitudes for supporting ecologically sustainable environments.

Promoting participation and activism in community programs that extend beyond recycling, to include more authentic issues that impact the lives of students and their families is essential. In the Goulburn Valley for example, this could include investigation of the wetlands surrounding the town and how these were impacted by recent floods. By researching what caused the water table in the town to rise, the wetlands to flood surrounding homes and farms, and the local reservoir to overflow; students would develop understandings of salinity, flood impact, local ecosystems and the effect of human and non human actions on the environment. Whilst hypothesising prevention and response strategies, students could develop skills for becoming responsible, informed community members who can participate in creating and maintaining sustainable environments.

Rural Education

There is no mention in VELS curriculum documents of issues regarding rural education. Yet there is a plethora of evidence indicating that the educational opportunities of rural students are substandard in comparison to that of their urban equivalents (Stevens, 1998).

The potential depth of educational inequality in rural areas is undeniably broad. Issues affecting the educational outcomes of students in these locations include the geographical setting of the school, the size of the community, the human and material supplies and services available to deliver and support the curriculum, educational leadership and experience, and teacher recruitment and retention (Stevens, 1998; Bouck, 2004; Wallace & Boyland; 2009). Elevated levels of socio-economic disadvantage, personal and educational hardship, and lack of access to adequate resources, technology and support systems, pose additional quandaries affecting educational delivery and outcomes for students in rural locations (Lyons, 2008; Loughland, 2010; Wallace & Boyland, 2009).

Victoria's rural education framework (2010) accentuates the commitment of the Victorian government to improving the provision of high quality education for students in regional and rural areas. The document claims that schools should reframe challenges as opportunities; consider cluster models as a solution for addressing issues of leadership, curriculum support and shared resourcing; and contemplate ways of making the best use out of current resources. Community involvement, place based education and the use of ICT as a teaching and learning tool are also suggested as strategies for enhancing the opportunities of students in remote locations.

Place based education fosters learning within an environment that is relevant and meaningful to students. Community participation and experiential learning are utilised within this approach to immerse students at a local level, in learning opportunities and activities that are centred on environments and issues relevant to their 'place' (Rae & Pearce, 2004; Wallace & Boylan, 2009). Place based education has been shown to be effective in increasing student interest and learning in science (Reade, Ferguson, & Colvill, 2009).

The tyranny of distance can be overcome through the implementation of Information and Communication Technology within the classroom (Valentine & Holiday, 2001). This inclusive measure has the potential to reduce inequalities arising from location and access ( Bouck, 2004). The VELS science curriculum isolates ICT from its syllabus, thus failing to acknowledge the potential benefits of including this tool in the science curriculum. However the interdisciplinary nature of the VELS syllabus, requires ICT to be taught across all learning domains.

Recommendations:

Teaching from the science syllabus without considering other pertinent domains, and the benefits associated with the geographical locations in which students are situated, may result in learning experiences that stem from place based education and ICT being over looked. It is important that teachers view the learning focus statements and standards presented within the VELS science syllabus in a flexible manner, and incorporate where possible issues that are pertinent to the lives of rural students, rather focussing on an urbanised curriculum. Place based education as a strategy for teaching science, should be clearly explained within the VELS science syllabus.

The suggestion of clustering resources across several rural contexts (could be expanded to include the coordination and leadership of teaching in specific domains, such as science. If delegated to a passionate and experienced teacher with a good understanding of rural education issues, the local environment and the community; the impact of oppressive factors may be reduced (Aldous, 2008); Victoria's rural education framework, 2010).

Cultural Perspectives

Science is a human construction, and is therefore biased by the thinking, values and beliefs of those who have constructed its theories (Corrigan, Lancaster, & Mitchell, 2006). It has the potential to influence society and culture, through the impact of discovery. Innovation in areas such as genetics, medicine and ICT, for example, can affect society and culture through provision or lack of supply. Science is influential, and has been historically used for "rhetorical purposes, to claim that scientific theories and evidence support a particular belief system or political program" (Rusbult, 1998). The religion versus science debate for example, illustrates how scientific knowledge can be used to endorse or denounce cultural belief systems, with evidence sometimes distorted to correspond with convictions.

Children enter school with a wealth expertise and understanding, and a plethora of ideas relating to their interpretation of scientific phenomena, (which are often in conflict with the justifications provided in the classroom). These schemes are shaped by life experience and interaction with families and social networks. Cultural capital is the name given to this collective knowledge (Leach & Scott, 2000) and should be investigated by teachers, with the purpose of building shared ideas and respect across and within cultures.

The Victorian model of science education uses a western lens to frame and deliver teaching within this domain. Indigenous perspectives and multicultural viewpoints are absent from the syllabus, thus illustrating bias towards the western view. The inclusion of cultural perspectives beyond that which is dominant is determined by individual teachers, who will often avoid inserting such elements into their teaching due to lack of knowledge and understanding (Aikenhead, 1999; Appleton, 2003). Teaching in this way prevents certain forms of learning from emerging, and provides a barrier to equitable access to science curriculum for students from non dominant western cultures.

Aikenhead (1999) uses term 'border crossing' to explain the process of the assimilation that takes place as students negotiate and accommodate new ideas and ways of interpreting the scientific world. By embracing the cultural capital of students, educators can incorporate individual strengths, understandings and needs into the teaching process; thus supporting the connection between their own culture to that of the classroom subculture (Aikenhead, 1999). Being able to transcend these boarders has a major impact on success in science, according to Fleer, Jane, & Hardy (2007). Within the VELS science syllabus, the notion of border crossing and contemplation of individual cultural capital is not advocated.

Culture is not mentioned in the VELS science syllabus until level 6, where the Learning Focus states that students develop an appreciation of "diverse cultures and how these have contributed to and shaped the development of science" (VCAA, 2008, p.20). Failure to address culture prior to this level illustrates gross inadequacies and requires reflection and rectification.

Recommendations:

The VELS science syllabus does not guide educators to take into account the cultural capital that students bring to school. Building upon these prior understandings is essential if students are to assimilate scientific knowledge. Inquiry based learning and constructivist teaching principles are known to aid this process (Aikenhead & Jegede, 1999). The syllabus should be adjusted to include these principles, along with culturally sensitive curriculum and teaching strategies that enhance access and success in science classrooms.

The traditional ecological knowledge gathered by Indigenous cultures can greatly benefit the western view of science. The lack of inclusion of indigenous science within the VELS science syllabus results in a substandard presentation of Australian science, particularly in the area of land and water management (Stanley & Brickhouse, 2001; Snively & Corsiglia; 2001). Indigenous knowledge of the Australian environment for has been collected over thousands of years and has a place in the science syllabus, alongside traditional western views. It is recommended that additional standards regarding the inclusion of Indigenous science (developed through consultation with Aboriginal educators and community elders), be incorporated into the domain of 'science knowledge and understanding'. To avoid tokenistic implementation of these standards, it is recommended that professional development be made available to educators to ensure depth of understanding of Indigenous science perspectives and the many possibilities offered by its inclusion. Inquiry based education and the involvement of elders who are knowledgeable in these sciences should also be included in these modified standards.

In order for educators to provide culturally inclusive instruction, they must be skilled in the process of 'border crossing' and the strategies required for effective implementation of this process (Aikenhead , 2000). The syllabus should provide a definition of this process and suggested strategies and examples for its use within the classroom.

The Guidelines for Managing Cultural and Linguistic Diveresity in Schools (Department of Education, 2001) and the Multicultural Policy for Victorian Schools (Department of Education, 1997) assert that educators have a responsibility to create learning environments and educational programs that challenge traditional western views and stereotypes. It suggests that bias and ethnocentrism be challenged and that intercultural knowledge be broadened by increasing cross cultural understandings across all key learning areas. These documents would serve as a useful reference for educators, supporting them with strategies for effective inclusion of indigenous and multicultural perspectives.

Conclusion

The current VELS science syllabus is content driven, heavily focussed on dominant western culture and the needs of the urban students. The syllabus fails to cater for students from diverse backgrounds, with cultural and rural perspectives neglected at all levels in the curriculum document.

The syllabus document is outdated, neglecting to include issues of sustainability. Given the fact that the environment is a finite resource; and human impact on all aspects of this will affect its long term viability; it is essential that students are taught to be conscious and active through the development of environmentally responsible behaviour and methods of preventing their ecological footprint.

Failure to consider the issues of sustainability, rural education and cultural perspectives in the syllabus provides mixed messages to educators about the importance of these matters. These inadequacies are underpinned by the belief systems, cultural background and experience levels of teachers who inadvertently serve to reinforce the inequalities produced by the curriculum, which in turn maintains the status quo. In order for learning in the area of science to be effectively facilitated, relevant to the needs of all students and the state of the environment, it is essential that a review of the VELS science syllabus document is critiqued. Adaptations and the development of new statements and perspectives reflective of the issues highlighted in this critique, need to occur in the Learning Focus Statements, Standards and Domains, which should be accompanied by training opportunities and the development of support documents to scaffold change in teacher pedagogy.

Bibliography

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Collier, G. (2004). Reflections on Sustainability: Questioning the Knowing and the Doing. Geographical Education , 17, 17-23.

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Cross, R. (2001). Teaching Primary Schience. Empowering children for thier world. Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson Education.

Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. (2009). Science and Decision Making: Who decides? Retrieved August 13, 2010, from Science Continuum: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/studentlearning/teachingresources/science/scicontinuum/l6sciencedec.htm

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Forum Posting 1: Draw A Scientist Task

In years gone by I must confess to have a somewhat distorted image of scientists. I saw them as a little on the crazy side, concocting potions and spending hours on end devising evil plans. Since becoming more educated (and a fan of NCIS and other crime scene investigation programs) my image of what it is to be a scientist has changed. I see scientists as investigators who pose questions and seek to find answers to these. They study how and why things happen to objects, people and the environment and help others to understand the world around them so everyone can live better lives. In our own way, we are all scientists! When we seek to explore how things work, find solutions to problems; or investigate and research a process or condition, we are engaging in scientific discovery. Promoting a quest for knowledge and the joy of exploration is essential for developing positive attitudes to science in the students that we teach.

Jo Fasano

Previous view of what it is to be a scientist Current view of what it is to be a scientist

Forum Task 2 - Develop one argument that supports a critique of the sustainability credentials of your syllabus document.

Sustainability cannot be viewed as separate from the society and culture in which it is positioned, and should link the interdependence of social, ecological, political and cultural issues (VAEE, 2006; Gruenewald, 2004). The VELS science document articulates the important role that sustainability should play in the curriculum, stating in it's introduction that "increasing emphasis will be placed on the role of science and the work of Australian and other scientists in addressing issues of sustainability at a local and global level" (VCAA, 2005, p.5). Furthermore, sustainability is defined in the glossary and links are made to external resources such as United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisations (UNESCO) and the Earth Charter.

Standards and progression points within the syllabus address sustainability in a surface manner, focussing on human impact and ecological matters, failing to adequately address political and cultural issues associated with these. Topics such as litter reduction, recycling and renewable energy are covered, and whilst these are important matters for students to become aware of, teaching of such issues often become trivialised, with depth and meaning sacrificed (Gruedewald, 2004) as teachers grapple to include them topically in an overcrowded curriculum.

Whilst the importance of sustainability is highlighted in the introductory section of the syllabus, the concept of environmental education as a life-long process (Gruedewald, 2004) is not supported, as standards and progression points do not begin in the science syllabus until level 3, leaving it to teachers to include science and sustainability of their own back prior to this point.

Bibliography:

Gruenwald, D. A. (2004). A foucualdian Analysis of Environmental Education: Towards the socioecological challenge of the earth charter. Curriculum Inquiry , 34 (1), 71-107

ctorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. (2006). Important information for parents about student learning and standards: A new approach from prep to year ten in Victorian schools. East Melbourne: VCAA.

Forum task 3

Choose one topic from your science syllabus. Explain what steps you might take to assist the border crossing of students with little experience of western science for this topic.

RATIONALE:

Koch (2010) asserts the importance of connecting science and daily life experiences, in an effort to involve students in the experiential and practical nature of this curriculum area. Teaching in this way scaffolds the construction of knowledge by supporting students to see the big picture and connect their observations and experiences to scientific concepts, assimilating learning through enculturation (Aikenhead, 1999). Leach & Scott (2000) support this notion suggesting that science is best taught when it is presented in a manner connected to student interests and sequenced across the curriculum so that learning is connected and maximised.

The experiences presented within this forum posting provide opportunities for students to engage in experiential learning scaffolded by comments, support and co-construction of knowledge instilled by the educator. The context is meaningful, as it relates to real life experiences, allowing students to investigate alone, alongside peers and in small group contexts.

TOPIC: Kitchen Chemistry

VELS LEVEL: 3

VELS STANDARDS: By participating in these experiences students will learn to identify reversible or non-reversible changes in substances. They use appropriate scientific vocabulary to describe and explain their observations.

KEY LEARNING FOCUS: How can we change matter?

VALUES AND ATTITUDES: Students will develop positive and informed values and attitudes towards themselves and others, and towards science and technology.

SKILLS:

Investigate changes in matter

Use measuring implements and cooking equipment to engage in food preparation

Monitor and document observations

ISSUES TO EXPLORE:

"Heating and cooling substances may cause materials to change their state; changes of state are described as reversible. The change of state from solid to liquid is called 'melting'; from liquid to gas is 'evaporation'; from gas to liquid, 'condensation' and from liquid to solid, 'freezing' or 'solidification'.

When one material is mixed in another and its particles seem to disappear the substance is described as being soluble. A soluble solid dissolves to form a mixture called a solution, an insoluble substance does not.

Preparation and cooking of food involves reversible changes and changes that are more difficult to reverse" (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, 2009).

ACTIVITIES:

Science corner: Investigation Lab: Changes of Matter- two week investigation area.

Investigation questions: How many different ways can you observe matter changing? How can you assist with these changes? What do you notice about these changes over time?

Exploration Items:

Solid - liquid: (Melting). Blocks of ice of varying sizes placed inside a kitty litter tray. Magnifying glasses for up close observation. Laminated investigation card: Why is the ice melting? How can we speed up or slow down the melting process? (daily experience)- dramatic play items added to the experience to encourage interaction: penguins, polar bears.

Liquid - gas: (Evaporation). Two jars filled with coloured liquid (one red one green for comparative reasons). The red jar will have tin foil placed over top. The green jar will have no lid. The water levels are marked on the jars before being placed on the table. The table is in full view of sunlight and placed below the reverse cycle heater. Laminated investigation card: Why are the water levels changing in the green jar?

Liquid to solid: (Solidification / Freezing). Bread Maker x 2- bread mix, jug of water, large mixing bowl, mixing implements laminated instruction sheet. Laminated investigation card: what happens when you mix the dry ingredients water? What happens to the mixture during the baking process? Why do these changes occur?

Group Activities: Community Kitchen

The Big Melt: investigating melting

"Students plan and carry out a simple investigation into changes that take place when heating everyday cooking ingredients such as: copha, butter, cheese, chocolate, and sugar (sugar cube).

They pose questions such as 'Which material will melt the fastest?'

Students predict changes they think would occur in the substances as they cool and compare their predictions with what actually happens.

Students construct graphs and draw diagrams to record the results of their investigations and use terms such as 'melting' and 'solidifying' correctly. They identify changes which were reversible and those that are more difficult to reverse. Students look for patterns in their data, suggest generalizations and design experiments to test their ideas" (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, 2009).

Do all kinds of sugar dissolve at the same rate?

With assistance, students design a fair test to find out which kind of sugar will dissolve in water most quickly. Kinds of sugar to investigate include brown sugar, cane sugar, icing sugar and lump sugar.

They construct spreadsheets to record results of experimental work and with help, create bar graphs to illustrate their results. Students write a scientific report and make inferences based on their data using the expressions 'dissolve' and 'making a solution' correctly. They begin to distinguish between the processes of dissolving and melting. They explain in what way their test was 'fair'.

Students pour each of the sugar solutions produced in the activity into shallow saucers and leave them in a sunny place. Based on their experience they predict the outcome of the experiment and observe any changes daily. They discuss their findings and are assisted to describe the processes which took place in terms of evaporation of water from the solution to leave the sugar crystals remaining. Students discuss whether the changes observed are easy or difficult to reverse.

Cornflour Goop

Goop is made by mixing cornflour and water together (2 parts cornflour to 1 part water) and green food colouring can also be added.

Students mix, pour, beat and strike the mixture and discuss how it behaves in each case. As a class, they discuss whether the mixture behaves as a solid or liquid, or whether it seems to have the properties of both. Their answers can be left open.

Collateral learning: cooking

Making chocolate crackles, cupcakes, fudge and pop corn

Different small teams make chocolate crackles, cupcakes, fudge and popcorn and investigate the processes involved.

They transfer their understandings and classify each of their ingredients as a solid, liquid or gas during the cooking process. They describe or create a flow chart that demonstrates the procedure to follow and identify stages in the process when mixing, dissolving, melting, boiling or evaporating is evident.

They describe the effects of the addition or removal of heat on the processes that they observe. They compare the properties of the ingredients they started with to those of the final products.

Students should be encouraged to present their findings in a variety of forms. These may include photographic documentation, pictorial observation, journaling, video diary or a project presentation.

Bibliography

Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. (2009, November). Kitchen Chemistry. Retrieved August 15th, 2010, from Science Domain P-10: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/studentlearning/teachingresources/science/samplesci/su3kitchenchem.htm

Koch, J. (2010). Science Stories: Science methods for elemetary and middle school teachers (4th ed.). CA, USA: Cengage.

Forum Task 4: Rural Education

Find another journal article using the electronic database at CSU Library that focuses on rural education from the last five years. Compare and contrast the focus of this article to the two articles that you read in this section. Outline the result of this exercise on the subject forum.

Forum Task 4: Rural Education

All three articles reviewed for this task highlight significant issues for rural education that should be incorporated into policy and curriculum, such as climate change, drought, agricultural production, sustainable farming, community viability, and rural population decline, (Bouck, 2004; Valentine & Holloway, 2001; Wallace & Boyland, 2009). It is essential that these issues are addressed as part of the curriculum, even if they are not openly endorsed in syllabus documents.

The size and location of school communities, levels of unemployment, recruitment issues, student and teacher retention rates, and the academic reputation of a school, significantly impacts upon the quality of the educational program provided. This is particularly so for rural students, where socio-economic disadvantage, personal and educational hardship and lack of access to adequate resources, technology and support systems, pose additional quandaries (Bouck, 2004; Wallace & Boyland, 2009).

Wallace & Boylan (2009) present significant questions for policy and program developers regarding the quality and access of education for rural communities. They use the term 'rural lens' to signify a required shift in thinking, suggesting that educational reform with a focus on self driven decision making, as opposed to current reactionary policies (developed in distant unrelated contexts ), is necessary if inclusive policies sensitive to rural education issues are to be implemented (Wallace & Boyland, 2009, p. 26). Bouck (2004) and Valentine & Holloway (2001) accentuate educational inequalities experienced by students in rural contexts in comparison to their urban counterparts and assert that a review of how rural education is delivered is essential.

Wallace & Boylan (2009) emphasize the increased cost of providing quality education programs in rural areas and support a place-based approach to education, where students are encouraged to contribute productively to their communities (Bouck, 2004, Valentine & Holloway, 2001; Wallace & Boyland, 2009). Place based education (PBE) fosters learning within an environment that is relevant and meaningful to students. Community participation and experiential learning are utilised within this approach to immerse students at a local level, in experiences centred on heritage, culture, environments, and local issues (Rae & Pearce, 2004). These are used to springboard learning in more traditional curriculum areas and encourage participation. PBE "ensures the learning of children is contextually relevant to their place" (Wallace & Boylan, 2009, p.25).

The benefits of ICT use in rural communities and their potential to reduce inequalities arising from location and access are imperative considerations raised by Bouck (2004) and Valentine & Holloway (2001). ICT is an essential tool for bridging geographic gaps in program delivery, with technology such as the internet, word processing, smart boards, web cams and Breeze, invaluable resources for enhancing educational programs.

The internet, whilst often used as a research tool in traditional classrooms, is also an important social tool for students in rural locations. Valentine & Holloway (2001) use social networking as an example of dividing the barriers that separate students from urban and global commnities. They suggest that educators embrace these discourses, and tap into the cultural capital of students as a method of bridging and enhancing ICT skills and the use of the internet as an educational tool. However as Bouck (2004) points out, whilst computers and associated technologies may be physically available, they are not always useful, with ineffective equipment, access and training frequently inhibiting these ICT's from being used as effectively as they could be. ICT support and adequate, up to date resources need to be funded if these technologies are to be used to their full advantage.

In closing, all three articles highlight the need for reflection and response in regards to rural education. To be fully inclusive, rural schools need to be better supported on a political level with ongoing social, educational, financial and technical support part of the funding package allocated to rural schools.

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