Science is the study of the natural world. Science is everywhere and understanding how it plays a role in our daily lives gives students a great foundation for any career they choose. It is essential that all citizens have a basic foundation in the sciences in order to understand the world we live in. An understanding of science is crucial to how we vote, how we solve problems, how we think about the environment, how we defend our citizens in the face of war, how we treat disease, what products we grow and eat and how we safe our country will be for our children and grandchildren to live in.
America's future depends not only on an understanding of Science but how Science is applied in order to compete in a global economy. The application of Science through technology, engineering and mathematics is called STEM. STEM careers are the largest growing fields in the world. It is crucial in order to compete with other nations that our students have a basic foundation and experiences of STEM.
The notion that science is necessary only for scientists and engineers is outdated in today's high-tech world. A solid science education is essential for students of all backgrounds, talents, interests, and abilities. All kids need the knowledge and skills that make up what we call "science literacy" – the ability to make sense of the world around them. By helping kids learn how to observe, collect evidence, and draw conclusions, science helps students sharpen their thinking about the ideas and events they encounter in everyday life.
The hallmark of science is that it generates theories and laws that must be consistent with observations. Much of the evidence from these observations is collected during laboratory investigations. A school laboratory investigation (also referred to as a lab) is defined as an experience in the laboratory, classroom, or the field that provides students with opportunities to interact directly with natural phenomena or with data collected by others using tools, materials, data collection techniques, and models (NRC 2006, p. 3). Throughout the process, students should have opportunities to design investigations, engage in scientific reasoning, manipulate equipment, record data, analyze results, and discuss their findings. These skills and knowledge, fostered by laboratory investigations, are an important part of inquiry—the process of asking questions and conducting experiments as a way to understand the natural world (NSTA 2004). While reading about science, using computer simulations, and observing teacher demonstrations may be valuable, they are not a substitute for laboratory investigations by students (NRC 2006, p. 3).
For science to be taught properly and effectively, labs must be an integral part of the science curriculum. The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) recommends that all preK–16 teachers of science provide instruction with a priority on making observations and gathering evidence, much of which students experience in the lab or the field, to help students develop a deep understanding of the science content, as well as an understanding of the nature of science, the attitudes of science, and the skills of scientific reasoning (NRC 2006, p. 127). Furthermore, NSTA is committed to ensuring that all students—including students with academic, remedial, or physical needs; gifted and talented students; and English language learners—have the opportunity to participate in laboratory investigations in a safe environment. (NSTA, 2014)
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