Rowe students enjoy explorations in science

Rowe students investigate shadows as part of a science exploration.

The new science curriculum at R. Roger Rowe School has created a hands-on, collaborative environment for students that is rooted in inquiry and discovery.

Assistant Principal John Galipault provided an update on the newly adopted Full Option Science System (FOSS) curriculum at the Rancho Santa Fe School District board’s Nov. 19 meeting.

The district made the transition to FOSS to comply with the state’s Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which emphasize communication, collaboration, real-world problem solving and rigor.

Gaulipault said a major change with the standards is that the subjects are now integrated. There is no longer standalone physical science, life science and earth science, all of the subjects are integrated together with engineering practices applied as well. “Everything is integrated throughout the school year and the grade levels, Gaulipault said.

Lessons are designed to engage all students through investigations, learning through trial and error, never just a straight lecture.

“It’s less of the teachers providing the information through a straight lecture and more of discovery and inquiry through investigations of different “phenomena.”

“Throughout the lesson students have the opportunity to express their thinking and justify their reasoning,” said teacher Jacqueline Cooley. “There’s so much room for peer to peer interaction as well as teacher and student interaction.

“Each of the lessons build on prior knowledge. You don’t just learn something and forget about it, you’re constantly revisiting and constantly practicing.”

Over the last few weeks, students have been studying “phenomena” such as the weather, magnets, electricity—they were excited to build their own convection chambers in the classroom to learn about density.

“They really learn to explore concepts instead of just learn the definition,” Cooley said. “That’s the shift with NGSS, it’s taking the focus away from just teachers directing the teaching to more students exploring the concepts and learning for themselves and making it more meaningful for them.”

RSF School Board Vice President Tyler Seltzer said there are always grumbles when there is a shift from the old school to the new and he said some parents are concerned with the idea of experimenting and exploring first and concepts being taught later, having a vision that the teacher sits in the back, kids are doing everything and the lesson never happens.

Seltzer was interested in hearing board member Scott Kahn’s observations on the curriculum as Kahn has a background in biotech and is a former chemistry professor

Kahn said it’s exciting to see that it maps a lot more closely to the scientific method.

“The way we’re teaching science is more aligned to the way you actually do it in the real world…The other thing that’s exciting is just making science fun,” Kahn said. “If people knew how fun science could be, everyone would be a scientist.”