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Science Missouri's Frameworks for Curriculum Development



Rationale for the Study of Science

The central purpose and primary task of science education in Missouri are to awaken in students at all levels a sense of joy and wonder, in the excitement and intellectual power of science. Science education should develop an understanding of the natural and physical worlds in which we live, the relationships among the phenomena of those worlds, the effects of those worlds on human living and should explain how human living affects the natural and physical worlds, and how knowledge of these worlds is discovered by those who study science.

As we move into the 21st century, science and technology will play an increasingly important role in all aspects of our society. It is imperative, therefore, that our future decision makers develop positive attitudes about and confidence in their ability to solve problems using scientific concepts and principles. These attitudes foster curiosity to understand and appreciate the natural world as well as to comprehend the impact of science and technology on the individual, culture, and society. The quality of life in the future will rest on the contributions of the students in schools now. With this in mind, the Missouri Science Curriculum Framework was designed to promote high expectations for all students, teachers, and districts and to encourage the development and adoption of curricula that provide the opportunity for all students to learn the skills, attitudes, and knowledge important for scientific literacy.

Scientifically literate individuals:

Missouri students should come to understand that science is an intellectual and social endeavor, a means by which we gain understanding and control over real-world situations, as well as part of our effort to survive and flourish. Science processes are used to gather information, create and evaluate hypotheses, pose theories for understanding the universe in which we live, and communicate these theories to others.


Schools are entrusted with the task of helping students acquire the complex, interconnected knowledge that will enable them to participate in the community of scientifically literate people and to engage in the activities that scientific knowledge makes possible. To fulfill this role as they develop their science curricula, Missouri schools will need to consider the following key principles:

1. All students will have the opportunity to attain high levels of scientific literacy and learn the rigorous content required.

This principle implies that all students will have the opportunity to learn science and that students can achieve high levels of understanding and skill in science. No one can discover an aptitude or a gift for science without having an opportunity to experience it. The knowledge and skills described in this framework can be achieved by all students. Undoubtedly, some students will achieve this knowledge sooner than others and at different depths of understanding. Decisions about programs and the means to accommodate the different rates of learning are left to curriculum developers, local school administrators, and science teachers.

2. All students will develop rigorous knowledge and understanding of science so they can use that knowledge in relationship to scientific, social, personal, and historical perspectives.

Understanding science implies the acquisition of basic facts, laws, principles, and vocabulary needed to describe events and objects, ask questions, construct explanations of natural phenomena, test those explanations in different ways, and communicate ideas to others. This principle encourages the shift of curriculum and instructional emphasis from topics that rely exclusively on information (e.g., knowing the parts of a cell) to topics that generate understanding (e.g., knowing the parts of a cell, what they do, how they are related, and what affects them). The various topics in science must be introduced as an integrated whole, revealing the interdependence of all strands of science. In addition, the interdependence of science and other disciplines must be continually stressed. Activities must be designed to encourage students to recognize the essential need to use skills and knowledge from all disciplines in the process of scientific inquiry.

3. For all students to understand more science, more resources (i.e., time, personnel, and materials) will be devoted to science education.

If students are to understand the "big ideas" of science, fundamental knowledge of concepts and processes, and investigations using this knowledge must be emphasized. To accomplish this, science education must receive equal emphasis with other content areas throughout primary, intermediate, middle, and secondary levels, while being applied with increasing complexity as students mature and progress. Schools need to provide time to teach science, develop well-prepared teachers, and supply adequate materials (books, equipment, space, etc.).

4. Science learning will have an active focus.

Learning science involves physical and mental activity that implies that activities are "hands-on" as well as "minds-on." Science teaching must involve students in inquiry-based investigations, connect what they now know and what they learn from other sources, and apply what they learn to new situations. This principle implies shifting the emphasis from teachers as a "sage on the stage" (presenting information and covering topics) to teachers as facilitators (guiding the students to learn science through active involvement).

The National Science Education Standards envision change throughout the educational system encompassing the following shifts in emphases (reprinted with permission):


Less emphasis on: More emphasis on:
Knowing scientific facts and information Understanding scientific concepts and developing abilities of inquiry
Studying subject matter disciplines (physical, life, Earth sciences) for their own sake Learning subject matter disciplines in the context of inquiry, technology, science in personal and social perspectives, and history and nature of science Separating science knowledge and science process Integrating all aspects of science content
Covering many science topics Studying a few fundamental science concepts
Implementing inquiry as a set of processes Implementing inquiry as instructional strategies, abilities, and ideas to be learned


Less emphasis on: More emphasis on:
Activities that demonstrate and verify science content Activities that investigate and analyze science questions
Investigations confined to one class period Investigations over extended periods of time
Process skills out of context Process skills in context
Emphasis on individual process skills such as observation or inference Using multiple process skills - manipulation, cognitive, procedural
Getting an answer Using evidence and strategies for developing or revising an explanation
Science as exploration and experiment Science as argument and explanation
Providing answers to questions about science content Communicating science explanations
Individuals and groups of students analyzing and synthesizing data without defending a conclusions Groups of students often analyzing and synthesizing data after defending conclusions
Doing few investigations in order to leave time to cover large amounts of content Doing more investigations in order to develop understanding, ability, values of inquiry and knowledge of science content
Concluding inquiries with the result of the experiment Applying the results of experiments to scientific arguments and explanations
Management of materials and equipment Management of ideas and information
Private communication of student ideas and conclusions to teacher Public communication of student ideas and work to classmates


The science curriculum set forth in this document provides directions for an innovative approach to science education in Missouri, as well as a philosophical foundation for comprehensive science education programs. It provides suggestions about what to teach and examples of how to teach and how to assess student learning. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will seek to support school districts as they address these problems through professional development programs, the science component of the Missouri Assessment Program, and the development of models of teaching and learning strategies.

The science framework encourages the development and adoption of curricula based on current research on how students learn. It encourages reform based on hands-on experimentation and learner-generated questions, investigations, hypotheses, and models. Whenever possible, lessons should use raw data and primary sources, along with manipulative, interactive, and physical materials. Students should be allowed to explore and discover, both individually and in groups, in a manner that encourages them to engage in dialogue, both with the teacher and with each other. Lessons should engage and challenge students as active learners responsible for their own knowledge and be driven by student thinking. Instructional strategies and/or content should be altered based on student responses and be culturally relevant.

The science framework is designed to facilitate long-term, statewide science education reform, leading to an appreciation of lifelong scientific learning, an in-depth understanding of science concepts, an appreciation of the impact of science on society, and the acquisition of problem-solving skills that will prepare students for the year 2000 and beyond. The document provides direction, a philosophical foundation, and a curricular framework from which educators may construct comprehensive science education programs. It is not a comprehensive document, however, and should be used in conjunction with other science education reform documents such as the National Science Education Standards and Project 2061's Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy.


The following is a philosophy of the progression of science education for the developmental levels addressed in the frameworks:

Primary Level (K-2)

From their very first day in school, students should be actively engaged in learning to view the world scientifically. That means encouraging them to ask questions and to seek answers, collect things, count and measure things, make qualitative observations, organize collections and observations, discuss findings, etc. Getting into the spirit of science and enjoying science are what count most.

Intermediate Level (3-4)

As children continue to investigate the world, the consistency premise can be strengthened by putting more emphasis on how they hypothesize the inconsistency of results of investigations. When students observe differences in the way things behave or get different results in repeated investigations, they should identify what differs from trial to trial. The point is that different or inconsistent findings can lead to interesting new questions to be investigated. This emphasis on scientific engagement calls for "hands-on, minds-on" activities.

Middle Level (5-8)

Middle school science should contribute to the development of scientifically literate persons and not simply prepare students for the next science course. Science should relate to students' personal lives, and enable them to begin examining societal issues having scientific and technological bases. Students should have many opportunities to approach problems in a concrete, hands-on manner. They should be encouraged to express their ideas with abstract symbols and explanations and to reflect on the science in which they are engaged. Student-directed discussions should afford opportunities to revise prior knowledge bases and to accept new realities based on new understandings of scientific knowledge.

Students will become more systematic and sophisticated in conducting investigations, some of which may last for weeks or more. They will develop a better understanding of what constitutes a good experiment. Efforts should be made to learn to control specific variables. Student investigations should make up a significant part of the total science experience. Student investigations should be accompanied by systematic learning of science concepts presented in a variety of ways.

High School Level (9-12)

Aspects of the scientific world view can be illustrated both studying historical episodes in science and by reflecting on developments in current science. Students should learn that theories based on valid evidence and logical arguments compete for acceptance and that acceptance is based on agreed-upon canons of research. Students' ability to understand abstract ideas increases at this level and they may comprehend the uncertain and tentative nature of science. Significant effort should be made to study the importance of statistical uncertainty and prediction in science.

Additional focus should be placed on providing opportunities to become aware of the great range of scientific areas that exist, as well as the intricate ways that these areas interact. This will lead to a more realistic view of how the world works and an appreciation for the wide variety of different career possibilities in science.


The best information available from current documents went into developing the core content of Missouri's science framework. Science for All Americans (AAAS), Benchmarks for Science Literacy (AAAS), the Content Core (NSTA), and the November 1994, draft of the National Science Education Standards were used to keep the Missouri science frameworks in line with the national trends. Many state frameworks from around the nation were also reviewed. Curriculum developers should understand this Framework is not an all-inclusive document for science curriculum planning.

The science core content is organized into the following eight strands with corresponding defining elements:

I. Scientific Inquiry II. Scientific Relevance
A. Processes A. Nature of Technology
B. Investigations B. Historical Perspective
C. Science as a Human Endeavor
III. Matter and Energy IV. Force, Motion and Mechanical Energy
A. Properties, Characteristics and
Structure of Matter
A. Relative Motion
B. Characteristics, Forms and
Sources of Energy
B. Types and Properties of Forces and Motion
C. Interactions of Matter and Energy C. Interactions of Forces and Motion
V. The Universe VI. Earth Systems
A. Characteristics of the Universe A. Physical Systems
B. Motion of the Universe B. Processes of Systems
C. Tools of Space Exploration
VII. Living Systems VIII. Ecology
A. Structure/Function/Characteristics
of Living Organisms
A. Interactions of Ecosystems
B. Life Processes B. Changes in Ecosystems
C. Diversity/interdependence
D. Reproduction/Heredity
E. Adaptation/Evolution

These strands serve as organizers for the content that provides the foundations for understanding and applying scientific knowledge and were chosen because the concepts could be easily categorized, are user-friendly to curriculum writers, and readily lend themselves to interdisciplinary connections. They emphasize the use of knowledge by providing examples that are linked to Missouri's Show-Me Standards. Content is introduced at the lower grade levels, then reinforced and extended in a spiraling manner at successively higher levels of understanding. Scientific Inquiry and Scientific Relevance are strands that can be incorporated in all the other strands.


There are some very powerful ideas and ways of thinking important to science that cannot be assigned to any particular strand because they are woven throughout all of them. These approaches have been used throughout history to help observe, investigate, and understand the world around us. Such ideas and ways of thinking can be categorized into main themes, such as systems, models, constancy and change, and scale. Themes that are common to all areas of science can facilitate the teaching of integrated science. Although these themes are not used in this Framework as organizing topics as some textbooks have done, or as separate strands, educators are encouraged to incorporate these themes into their science curricula. These themes also facilitate interdisciplinary ties because they are approaches that are relevant to business, education, law and government, and other topics.


The main goal of teaching students about systems is that they will be better able to understand more complex systems by thinking about individual parts. This applies whether they are thinking about a car, a cell, an ecosystem, or a planet. Students should be encouraged to think of the properties of systems as resulting from interaction of the parts, rather than belonging to the parts. A complex system may have properties that are more than just a sum of parts. Systems can include processes as well as things. All systems are connected, contain subsystems and are themselves subsystems of larger systems. Feedback controls a system, in that the output from one part of the system (which can include material, energy, or information) can become the input for other parts. As students reach higher levels of understanding, they should be able to analyze systems, specifying their boundaries and subsystems, their relations to other systems, and identify inputs and outputs and how they interact as feedback.


Physical, mathematical, and conceptual models are tools for learning about things or processes they were meant to resemble. Students should be exposed to the use of models that are progressively more abstract, starting with physical models in the lower grades, and various forms of conceptual and mathematical models later. Models (including computer models) are used to study processes that happen very slowly (such as erosion or ocean currents), or are dangerous (car crashes, drugs, nuclear winter). Students should understand, however, that models can never be exactly the same as what they are modeling, and their usefulness may be limited if they are too simple or too complex. The usefulness of models can be tested by comparing their predictions to actual measurements or observations in the real world.

Constancy and Patterns of Change

Constancy and change are subjects of intense study in almost all areas of science and mathematics. The nature and rate of change in all types of systems is of interest. Likewise, the lack of change, or constancy, is also a topic of intense study in all science disciplines. Students should develop understanding of this concept starting with the idea that things change in some ways (size, weight, color, and movement) and stay the same in some ways. Some changes take place so rapidly or slowly that they are hard to see; careful measurement must be done to understand them. Later students can measure, graph, and analyze change, and they can begin to study patterns of change (such as cycles in nature), and identify the feedback mechanisms of the cycles. Eventually they can understand that most systems are so complex, at the atomic scale as well as larger parts, that tiny differences in conditions result in unpredictable outcomes. Students can be introduced to constancy and change by observing aspects of themselves or their surroundings. As students build on these experiences, they can relate their understanding to constancy and change in physical, biological, and technological systems.


An understanding of scale is important since most measurable variables, such as mass, size, and time, show immense variations in nature. Students should learn to measure and observe more and more extreme values as they progress through school. This will build a knowledge base that will help them to understand an even more important aspect of scale-that the way in which things work often changes with scale. The most commonly examined example of this is the relationship of surface area to volume. As something changes size, its volume changes out of proportion to its surface area. The range of numbers that students can grasp increases with age, so that older students can develop their sense of scale by studying the immense size of the cosmos, the minute size of the atoms, and the enormous age of the Earth.