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Science and Literacy

• Science Notebooks FOSS Consumable NotebooksFOSS Science Resource Books Resource DatabaseBuilding Literacy through Science

Science Notebooks

As teachers become experienced with the use of FOSS in the classroom, they may want to consider the use of science notebooks in conjunction with science investigations. The use of notebooks allows teachers to integrate other areas of the curriculum into science and connect other curriculum areas in order to maximize teaching time and to provide real opportunities for application of science content and skills. Science notebooks and the FOSS curriculum serve as a perfect vehicle to make connections. Science notebooks used in conjunction with FOSS materials allow students even more opportunities to write and reflect on what they are learning. Teachers can use science notebooks for formative assessment of students’ process skills, content knowledge, and science attitude, especially when science notebooks are used on a regular basis.

Suggestions for getting started with notebooks plus ideas for deepening student understanding through the use of science notebooks can be found in the FOSS Science Notebooks Folio for K-6, or the FOSS Science Notebooks Folio for MS.

The following are some other resources to help you get started with science notebooks.

Connecting FOSS and Science Notebooks: A South Carolina Experience, by Jeri Calhoun and Ellen Mintz. FOSS Newsletter, Fall 2003.

Looking Into Students’ Science Notebooks: What do Teachers do with Them? By M. Ruiz, M. Li, & R. Shavelson. 2002
(Retrieved on 5/4/05)

"Project Notebook," by Mintz, E., and Calhoun, J. Science and Children, November/December 2004, pp. 30–34. (Online access requires NSTA membership.)

Science Notebook website. North Cascades and Olympic Science Partnership (NCOSP). http://www.sciencenotebooks.org/

Science Notebooks: Writing about Inquiry, by Brian Campbell and Lori A. Fulton. Heinemann, Portsmouth, NH, 2003. ISBN 0325005680.

Science Notebooks: Tools for Increasing Achievement Across the Curriculum, by T. Hargrove & C. Nesbit. 2003.
http://www.ericdigests.org/2004-4/notebooks.htm. (Retrieved 2/13/05 )

"Student-Centered Notebooks. Science and Children," by Fulton, L., and Campbell, B. Science and Children, November/December 2004, pp. 26-29. (Online access requires NSTA membership.)

Students’ Science Notebooks and the Information they Provide about Opportunity to Learn and Student Learning, by M. Ruiz, M. Li, & R. Shavelson (Retrieved on 5/4/05).

Using Science Notebooks to Assess Students’ Conceptual Understanding, by P. Aschbacher & A. Alonzo. 2004. (Retrieved on 5/4/05)

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FOSS Consumable Science Notebooks for Students
To assist teachers in getting started with notebook use, FOSS offers bound, consumable science notebooks for students. Each notebook is specific to a module, includes a table of contents, all the student sheets (from the duplication masters in the teacher guide), and additional blank pages for students to record their thinking and conclusions.

Features of the FOSS consumable notebooks:

  • An easy way to get started with science notebooks
  • Three-hole drilled for inserting into a binder
  • Each page is perforated and can be removed
  • Available for each K–6 FOSS Module
  • Available in English and Spanish
  • Class packs of 32 include the FOSS Science Notebook Folio

Science Notebooks can be ordered from Delta Education.

FOSS consumable Science Notebook, each $5.95
Class Pack (32 Notebooks for module plus Folio) $169.95

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FOSS Science Resource Books

In science, reading adds power to the curriculum. Through the printed word students can extend their experience beyond the limits of the classroom and the FOSS kit; they can enhance their understanding of concepts by exposure to related ideas; and they can share in the lives of real and fictitious people who played roles in scientific discovery or applied scientific ideas to real-life situations. FOSS Science Stories for grades K–6, FOSS CA Resources Books for grades K–5, and FOSS Science Resources books for middle school courses were written to add this dimension to the FOSS program.

However, FOSS believes strongly that reading should not be the primary source of science information, particularly in the elementary curriculum. The primary source should be personal experience. Carefully selected reading materials, provided after an activity-based foundation is in place, can add a very effective dimension to science learning.

Other research tools recommended in the context of the hands-on activities for students K–8 include video excursions, computer software, and websites.

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Resource Database


Each FOSS teacher's guide includes a resources list. The resources list includes annotated listings for nonfiction and fiction books for students, resource books for teachers, software, video, and web resources that extend the hands-on science activities in each FOSS module.

You can link here to a database including a listing of all of the resources for each module or course in the FOSS curriculum.

This database will be updated twice a year. We would love to hear about any books or other resources you are using with your students to enhance the FOSS modules. You can send your ideas and suggestions for this database to the FOSS staff at the Lawrence Hall of Science.

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Building Literacy through Science

In the foreword to Best Practices in Literacy Instruction, Dorothy Strickland of Rutgers University writes,

"Learning to read and write is arguably the most complex task humans face. Becoming literate requires experiences that help make the meaning and importance of print transparent. It requires active involvement and engagement to ensure that the joys of being literate as well as the value of what literacy can do in a very practical sense is appreciated. Although it is undoubtedly true that becoming literate still involves the development of some basic skills, and strategies, today low-level basic skills that merely involve surface level decoding and the recall of information are hardly enough. Critical thinking and the ability to personalize meanings to individual experience and apply what is read or written in the real world, under many different circumstances and with many different types of texts, may now be termed the 'new basics.'" (Best Practices in Literacy Instruction, edited by Gambrell et al., The Gilford Press, NY, 1999)

Science investigations offer tremendous opportunities for students to think critically and to gain experiences to help them apply what they’ve read while developing written and verbal communication skills. It is unfortunate that teachers are currently being asked to increase the instructional time devoted to language arts at the expense of quality time for science. On the contrary, teachers should be encouraged to increase the time for science and to use these rich and motivating experiences as the context in which to exercise student reading and writing. Some recent studies indicate that the students of teachers who implement FOSS demonstrate greater achievement on reading tests that those students in classrooms where FOSS is not implemented (see Fresno study below).

FOSS investigations involve students in discourse. Discourse is tremendous exercise for the mind. Have you considered the immense complexity of converting experiences and ideas into words to be spoken or written? An idea or concept must be synthesized from the innumerable bits of stored information, and that concept must then go through the language center, where it is deconstructed into a string of symbols we call words, and output in a sequence that conveys information.

The essence of discourse is putting ideas and experiences into words. The process requires a tremendous amount of information processing, internal verification, and validation of what is known. This dimension of elementary and middle school science is sometimes referred to as the minds-on approach to science. It simply means that it is not enough just to work with materials—you have to think about what the experience with materials tells you about the world.

Discourse takes several forms in FOSS.

  • Focused discussions take place in collaborative groups.
  • Traditional whole-class question-and-answer sessions that summarize a lesson and put important points in front of the class.
  • Content/inquiry sessions wrap up each part of each investigation.
  • Student sheets help students collect and organize data and discuss the results in thoughtful ways. Student-sheet discourse may be individual or a group effort.
  • Response sheets elicit individual discourse on specific topics for assessment purposes.

At this site, we will provide updates on currents projects, articles, and studies related to science and literacy. The following articles may be of interest.

FOSS Science Stories: Building Literacy through Science, by Kari Rees.

Fresno Shows Literacy Improvement through Science, FOSS Newsletter, Issue 15, Spring 2000.

Teaching Hands-On/Minds-On Science Improves Student Achievement in Reading: A Fresno Study, by Jerry D. Valadez and Yvonne Freve. 2002.

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