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Vision Statement

Scientific understandings are central to our existence on Earth. We live on a planet filled with life, movement, and technology, and we have long sought to understand our world and the worlds beyond. The more complex our world becomes, and the more we seek to improve our lives, the greater our need for science literacy. Our goal is to develop scientifically literate[1] citizens by teaching them to think critically in school and as life long learners.

We set out to instill a never-ending curiosity about the world and to develop the skills necessary to investigate questions. We seek to challenge students to recognize problems, ask and explore questions, formulate working hypotheses, determine the best way to observe phenomena, construct and revise models, handle data with accuracy, reach tentative conclusions consistent with what is known, and express themselves clearly about the significance of findings. The acquisition by students of cognitive processes such as these and the habits of mind and attitudes that underlie them is a fundamental component of our standards based, nationally and state aligned science curriculum. The science department supports implementation of this curriculum through professional development focused on content and pedagogy, which insures fidelity of implementation, while providing a structured environment for continued reflection and refinement of the curriculum.

We realize that fostering these complex mental capacities in all students takes time. Students bring a range of experiences, skills and abilities to the classroom. Research indicates that students learn best by doing and then having adequate time to reflect on what they have done in order to reconcile their findings with their previous understanding of the world. Therefore our teachers organize their classrooms around frequent, hands-on explorations of natural and engineered phenomena in which students assume age-appropriate active roles as investigators and sense makers.  These hands on, minds on activities set the stage for increasingly sophisticated classroom discourse that challenges students intellectually and develops their ability to communicate ideas. An integral part of our curricula are field experiences we have developed with community partnerships that offer students real world applications. Our focus on the interchange of ideas, both through discussions (science talks, peer to peer talk, etc) and written work (sketches, notebooks, exhibitions, etc), is vital to transform students into a community of scientifically literate citizens. [2]

[1] The Cambridge Public Schools defines scientifically literate based on a large body of research.  We believe one needs a working familiarity with (1) the nature of science, including a grasp of the various inquiry processes scientists use to discover new knowledge as well as of the attitudes and habits of mind—honesty, skepticism, openness to new ideas, and curiosity— essential to an objective investigator; (2) the most important concepts from the body of scientific knowledge; and (3) the contexts of science, including a familiarity with the history of its development and its relationship with mathematics, technology and the economic, political, and cultural effects on society. A scientifically literate person possesses knowledge of these various aspects of science and also makes use of them in ethical decision-making and participation in civic life.

[2] See, for example, the National Research Council’s National Science Education Standards (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1995) and the documents that preceded it, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Science for All Americans (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), Benchmarks for Science Literacy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), and the National Science Teachers Association’s Scope, Sequence, and Coordination of Secondary School Science: The Content Core (Washington, D.C.: National Science Teachers Association, 1993). Also see NBPTS Early Adolescence Science Standards).