What is the Issue?
We do not live in disciplinary silos so why do we ask children to learn in that manner? All science learning is a cultural accomplishment and can provide the relevance or phenomena that connects to student interests and identities. This often intersects with multiple content areas. Young children are naturally curious and come to school ready to learn science. Leading with science leverages students’ natural curiosity and builds strong knowledge-bases in other content areas. Science has taken a backseat to ELA and mathematics for more than twenty years. Integration among the content areas assures that science is given priority in the elementary educational experience.
Things to Consider
- Integration of science concepts with other disciplines must be meaningful to students and connect in an explicit way to other content areas. There is a strong argument to be made that science and social studies need to be included in the curriculum in order for literacy skills to develop and improve.
- The world is interdisciplinary while school is often disciplinary. Learning takes place both inside and outside of school. Outside-of-school investigations and projects are driven by people’s curiosity and play and often cut across disciplinary subjects. However, learning in school in often fragmented into different subject matter silos.
- Keep subjects other than ELA and math in mind when considering integration. Social studies and the arts provide rich opportunities for the integration of science with other content areas.
- Crosscutting concepts support students in making sense of phenomena across science disciplines and can be used to prompt student thinking. Crosscutting concepts can serve as a vehicle for teachers to see connections to the rest of their curriculum, particularly with English / Language Arts (ELA) and math.
Attending to Equity
- According to the 2018 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education (NSSME+), a typical elementary school class spends about 20 minutes a day on science instruction, compared to 60 minutes on mathematics and almost 90 minutes on language arts. Integration can ensure that all students have opportunities to learn science, as they are likely to experience regular learning in math or language arts.
- Integration offers many entry points into the learning expereince and honors the cultural background/knowledge of all students and the communities they are growing up in.
- Cultural ways of knowing should be included in the learning experience. Culturally responsive instruction can help students engage in integrated learning that meaningfully connects to their interests and those of their community.