Science

We help  teachers, coaches, and administrators define and work towards a common vision of what it means to know, learn, and teach science, including learning how to embed literacy practices into science instruction.

We know the power of engaging as learners. We engage educators in the kinds of learning experiences that improve students' knowledge of science. This allows educators to reflect on current practices, learn new ways of working, and determine quality instruction in science.

We understand the power of shared experiences. We often ask participants to engage their students in common tasks or units and bring back artifacts of practice for discussion, reflection, and further planning.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Our professional development courses range from short, targeted workshops to courses that are embedded in multi-year and multi-discipline school, district, or state partnerships. Our courses are most effective when teachers work side-by-side with professionals that support classroom instruction, such as coaches, administrators, and central office educators. Additional courses are available for leaders to support science teaching and learning.

Our professional development courses help science educators

  • Select and enact lessons to meet 21st century standards and workforce expectations
  • Support students in reading and writing about science as a way to build science knowledge and strengthen their literacy practices
  • Engage students in meaningful data analysis and laboratory investigations to develop evidence-based scientific understandings
  • Use formative assessments and students' prior knowledge to differentiate instruction
  • Use academic discussions to deepen students' sense making of science concepts
  • Support students in using self-assessment strategies and metacognitive tools to advance their learning
  • Study student work to identify what students know and can do and determine instructional next steps
  • Use and learn from the IFL's science instructional materials

INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS

The IFL offers two types of instructional materials in science: Science Units and Building Literacy and Science Knowledge (BLSK) task sets. Both are designed to help ensure that students develop conceptual understanding of fundamental scientific concepts and to apprentice students in the ways of reading, writing, talking, and reasoning in science. Our Science Units and BLSK task sets can be used as:
  • high-quality curricula to advance student learning and to fill in gaps in existing curricula;
  • models of coherent and challenging curricula to advance educator learning; and
  • templates to guide the development and revision of school, district, or state curricula.
The IFL offers professional development to help educators use and learn from our instructional materials.

What's the difference between Science Units and BLSK task sets? 

Science Units take students through a full arc of a concept. Students engage in data analysis, laboratory investigations, and text-based reading and writing tasks. Units are designed to replace, not supplement, traditional units. 

BLSKs include target reading and writing tasks that complement traditional science instruction. BLSKs support students' literacy development in addition to building their knowledge of science concepts. 

Science Units

Science Units prepare students to meet 21st century standards and workforce expectations. Students are apprenticed to read, write, think, talk, inquire, and reason like scientists as they develop their understanding of the unit’s driving concepts and enhance their literacy proficiency. All units follow the same three-part structure:

First, students engage in an activation task to uncover their preconceptions about the unit's driving concepts.

Next, students engage in a series of concept development lessons to advance their understanding of the unit's driving concepts. Students read, write, talk, and analyze data. Where appropriate, students engage in laboratories to further conceptual development and to build laboratory skills.

Lastly, students engage in an application lesson in which they apply what they learned to new and real-world settings. Science Units are designed to be educative for teachers as they shift their teaching to help students meet the challenges of new standards. Science Units include:

  • activities, readings, and laboratory experiences for students to analyze data and develop conceptual understanding;
  • questions and reflection points to foster rich student interactions;
  • guidance on how to differentiate tasks for the variety of learners in today's classrooms;
  • assistance on how to help students engage in the intellectual struggle of learning;
  • opportunities for students to reflect on and monitor their own learning;
  • conceptual stories that provide "look for" points for teachers and administrators; and
  • formative and summative assessments.

Building Literacy and Science Knowledge Tasks

New standards and new assessments call for new ways of working in science classrooms. Science teachers are charged with advancing students' knowledge of science concepts while also supporting them to read and write about texts. The IFL's Building Literacy and Science Knowledge (BLSK) task sets are designed to provide students with opportunities to practice using one or more science texts to build and present knowledge in science. BLSKs are designed around complex science text(s) and text-based tasks. Students are supported to read the text(s) multiple times and for different purposes, including to build science and literacy knowledge, connect visuals and text, graphically represent ideas, and connect ideas across text. Students are supported to engage in a text-based writing and talk with questions and prompts that guide student-to-student discussion and sense-making. BLSKs span 3-5 days and can be flexibly integrated into existing curricula and courses of study. The IFL offers BLSK-specific professional development to support teachers and other educators to use and learn from these materials.
Secondary Science Units
Grade, Focus & Title Description
Matter and Energy in Organisms
Grades 6-8
PURCHASE MANUAL 
The overarching concept of this unit is: Organisms obtain matter and energy through photosynthesis and/or consumption. All organisms use matter and energy to live and grow. Students develop their understanding of the overarching concept through five concept-development lessons. In each lesson, students engage in activities designed to develop their understanding of one key idea related to the overarching concept. Students first focus on how plants obtain the matter and energy they need to live and grow, what plants do with the sugars they create, and how plants break down the sugars for energy in plant cells. Then students shift their focus to how animals obtain the matter and energy they need as well as how sugars are broken down to provide energy for animal cells. Throughout the unit, students read, write, and engage in discussions to develop their understanding of matter and energy in organisms. Students consider both photosynthesis and cellular respiration. The unit culminates in a performance task in which students develop a written argument to support the unit's overarching concept.  

Approximately 23 days of instruction.

Matter and Energy in Ecosystems
Grades 6-8
PURCHASE MANUAL 
The overarching concept of this unit is: Matter cycles and energy transfers among living and non-living components of a dynamic ecosystem. Students develop their understanding of the overarching concept through five concept-development lessons. In each lesson, students engage in activities designed to develop their understanding of one key idea related to the overarching concept. Students first focus on developing an understanding of ecosystems, and how matter and energy transfer among living and non-living parts of an ecosystem. Then students shift their focus to how carbon is cycled through a system, how energy is transformed across the ecosystem, and the potential impacts of changes within a system. Throughout the unit, students read, write about, and discuss how matter and energy move through an ecosystem. As an optional activity, students construct a mini-ecosystem. The unit culminates in a performance task in which students develop a written argument to support the unit's overarching concept. This unit builds on students' learning from the middle school Matter and Energy in Organisms unit described above.

Approximately 29 days of instruction.

Matter and Energy in Organisms
Grades 3-4
Focus Grade 3DOWNLOAD FREE COPY 
The overarching concept of this unit is: All organisms require the input of matter and energy. Organisms transform the matter and energy into forms unable by cellular processes to grow and develop. Students develop their understanding of the overarching concept through four concept-development lessons. In each lesson, students engage in activities designed to develop their understanding of one key idea related to the overarching concept. Students read texts, write, engage in labs, and engage in discussions with their peers to discuss how matter and energy are transformed into forms useable by cellular processes with and without oxygen. Students first focus on developing an understanding of photosynthesis by concentrating on matter and then energy. Then students shift their focus to cellular respiration and how matter and energy are transformed into forms useable by cellular processes with and without oxygen. The unit culminates in a performance task in which students develop a written argument to support the unit's overarching concept.

Approximately 21 days of instruction.

Matter and Its Interactions: Predicting Properties and Reaction Outcomes
Grades HS Chemistry
PURCHASE MANUAL 
The overarching concept of this unit is: The structure and interactions of matter at the bulk scale are determined by electrical forces within and between atoms. Students develop their understanding of the overarching concept through three concept-development lessons. In each lesson, students engage in activities designed to develop their understanding of one key idea related to the overarching concept. Students read texts, write, engage in labs, and engage in discussions with their peers to discuss the structure and interactions of matter. Students first focus on developing an understanding of the structure of matter and how the structure of matter determines how it interacts with other matter. Then students shift their focus to using the structure of matter to predict interactions. The unit culminates in a performance task in which students develop a written argument to support the unit’s overarching concept.

Approximately 20 days of instruction.

   
Building Literacy Science Knowledge Task Sets
Grade, Focus & Title Description
Mighty Microbes
Grade 3
PURCHASE MANUAL 
This third grade BLSK asks students to learn about microbes and the work they do in and on our bodies by reading, writing, and talking about the text "Meet Your Mighty Microbe." As their final task, students are asked to demonstrate their understanding of the text and its ideas in writing by using what they have learned to explain the important work that microbes do to keep us healthy.
Trees That Would Not Grow
Grade 3
PURCHASE MANUAL 
In this third grade BLSK, students learn about how scientists study and solve problems by reading, writing, and talking about the text "The Trees That Would Not Grow" by Susan E. Quinlan. Quinlan explores how scientists have studied and tried to solve the problem of pine trees that were not thriving. As their final task, students are asked to demonstrate their understanding of the text and its ideas in writing by using what they have learned to argue what living thing is surprisingly important to pine trees and why.
Arctic Animals
Grade 4
PURCHASE MANUAL 
In this fourth grade BLSK, students consider structures and behaviors that help animals survive arctic conditions. Students to learn about two arctic animals, the artic fox and the musk ox, by reading, writing, and talking about two texts. As their final task, students are asked to demonstrate their understanding of both texts and their ideas by writing an explanation of how the arctic fox and the musk ox are able to survive challenges of living in the arctic.
Plant vs. Animal
Grade 4
PURCHASE MANUAL 
In this fourth grade BLSK, students learn about plant and animal structures that aid in survival. Students read, write, and talk about the text, "Plant vs. Animal" by Donna O'Meara. As their final task, students are asked to demonstrate their understanding of the text by drafting an essay in which they make an argument about who is the winner—plants, animals, neither, or both.
Looking at Mushrooms
Grade 5
PURCHASE MANUAL 
This fifth grade BLSK asks students to learn about fungi and how they function by reading, writing, and talking about the text "Looking at Mushrooms." As their final task, students are asked to demonstrate their understanding of the text and its ideas by writing an explanation of how mushrooms grow and function in a forest for an audience who doesn't know much about fungi.
Water Shortage
Grade 5
PURCHASE MANUAL 
This fifth grade BLSK asks students to read, write, and talk about water shortage issues based on two texts: "Are We Running Out of Water?" by Brian Richter and "You Are Drinking What?" by Paul Kix. Each article provides an argument for a potential solution to the water shortage problem. As their final task, students are asked to draft an essay in which they argue which of these two texts presents the more effective argument based on the given evidence and reasoning.
Pollution at the Ends of the Earth
Grade 6
PURCHASE MANUAL 
In this sixth grade BLSK, students read, write, and talk about the text "Pollution at the Ends of the Earth" by Douglas Fox. Fox explores how persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are created in industrial regions of the world and then travel to remote regions where the POPs impact the local communities. As their final task, students are asked to demonstrate their understanding of the text and its ideas by creating a map and diagrams based on evidence from the text. Using their map and diagrams, students are then asked to draft an explanation of how POPs from other parts of the world reach and affect the children in Kuujjuaq.
A Low Tech Treatment for Bee Plague
Grade 7
PURCHASE MANUAL 
This seventh grade BLSK asks students to learn how bees impact our food sources and consider the potential impact of Colony Collapse Disorder by reading, writing, and talking about the text "A Low-Tech Treatment for Bee Plague." As their final task, students are asked to demonstrate their understanding of the text and its ideas by writing an explanation of Colony Collapse Disorder and the potential impacts from the loss of bees.
Elk Vanishing Act
Grade 8
PURCHASE MANUAL 
This eighth grade BLSK asks students to learn about how wolves and other factors are affecting the elk population in Yellowstone National Park by reading, writing, and talking about the text "Elk Vanishing Act." As their final task, students are asked to demonstrate their understanding of the text and its ideas by creating a visual representation and drafting an essay to explain the factors that contribute to the decrease of elk in Yellowstone National Park.
Altruism
Grade HS Biology
PURCHASE MANUAL 
This high school BLSK asks students to learn about how altruistic behaviors observed within two animal communities fit within Darwin's theory of natural selection, by reading, writing, and talking about the texts "Sentinels: Meerkat Superheroes" and "Honeybees Reveal That Evolution Is Stranger Than You Ever Realized." As their final task, students are asked to demonstrate their understanding of the texts and the ideas by drafting an essay in which they argue to what extent altruism functions within Darwin's theory of natural selection.
The Immortal Devil
Grade HS Biology
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This high school BLSK asks students to learn about devil facial tumor disease, an unusual cancer that is devastating the Tasmanian devil population, by reading, writing, and talking about the text "The Immortal Devil." As their final task, students are asked to demonstrate their understanding of the text and its ideas in writing by determining the strategies scientists have come up with to help battle devil facial tumor disease in light of its uniqueness.

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