Science, Social Science, Physical Education & Music
Science Education for the 21st Century
For years, Americans have been hearing how U.S. students lag behind students in other countries when it comes to science education. So, what does science education look like in the United States and what should school districts do to position students to succeed in the 21st century?
Traditional Science Education
Many school districts in the United States have traditionally begun since education in kindergarten and continued it through high school. That remains true today. Although some school districts now require students to take three or four years of high school science whereas they only required two or three years in the past.
Elementary school science education often centers on earth science, the environment, geology and animals. As students get older courses in biology, astronomy, physics and chemistry are added to the curriculum. Students are often required to participate in both biology and chemistry labs in order to get a high school diploma. This requires them to make hypotheses, test those hypotheses through experimentation and write lab reports.
Some schools encourage the study of science through extracurricular activities or projects. For some schools, things such as the science fair are very popular and students are often very excited about their participation. A science fair is an opportunity for students to explore the scientific method through their own research on projects that interest them. They then get to present their project at a school wide fair. Some schools present awards to students who demonstrate a good use of a scientific method or who are thorough in the scope of their project. Sometimes, schools send students on to state wide, national and international science fair competitions. However, even if a student doesn’t win a prize, it is a useful way to get students excited about science and interested in applying what they’ve learned.
Other extracurricular activities that involve science include high school extracurricular groups. Some high schools have pre-med groups where students who want to go into the medical profession get together and pursue projects such as volunteering in the hospital or listening to a lecture presented by a medical student. Another possible activity is a robotics club where students work together to build a robot and problem solve.
21st Century Science Education
21st century science classes still teach the same fundamental concepts and have the same kind of extracurricular opportunities. However, school districts that are producing the best possible science students are doing something that many traditional science classes lacked. Specifically, they are focusing on teaching students to think like scientists and less on memorization of specific facts.
Further, many science courses now focus less on teacher dominated lectures and rely more on hands on interactive learning for all ages. Of course, traditional science classes also relied on biology dissections and chemistry experiments. However, the instruction was still predominately a teacher lecture model.
Today’s science classes use more sources of technology and more teacher assessments to ensure that students are learning. For example, the U.S. Department of Education has made mention of personal electronic response systems that teachers can have students use effectively in science classes. These systems are inexpensive and allow a teacher to ask a multiple choice question which each student in the class then answers silently using his or her personal device. The teacher can see how individual students are doing and can see exactly how many people in the class are ready to move on and how many are still confused about a particular concept. It forces the students who do not like to participate in class to participate and thereby provides valuable feedback for the teacher. The importance of learning in elementary school.
While in the past it was possible to spend a few hours memorizing facts to cram for an exam, it is becoming harder to do that as teachers begin to expect critical reasoning skills to play a part in the science curriculum.
Americans want to compete in the 21st century global economy. More and more that competition is relying on scientific advancements. So, in order to compete effectively and to keep valuable high paying jobs on American soil, it is essential that elementary, middle and high schools adapt their science curriculum so that students have a sound science education upon which to build a potential career in the sciences.
What is Social Science Education?
Have you ever wondered about what type of study qualifies as a social science? Do you wonder why your child comes home with social studies homework rather than something like English, math or science? While the term social science can be confusing, it actually has very little to do with your child’s socialization at school and a lot to do with some very useful disciplines.
What Are the Social Sciences?
The social sciences refer to the disciplines that study human behavior and social life in a scientific way. The major disciplines include:
• Anthropology: simply put, anthropology is the study of humanity. It is a combination of natural science and social science and includes 4 predominant fields of physical anthropology, cultural or social anthropology, archaeology and linguistics.
• Economics: economics is the study of wealth. Students of economics learn to analyze how wealth is produced, distributed and consumed. Students who pursue a degree in economics will spend time studying both macroeconomic principles and microeconomic concepts.
• Education: people who study education are examining how people teach and how students learn information. Students may focus on different aspects of education such as early childhood education, high school education or adult education or on general education theory.
• Geography: geography focuses on where humans live including the names of various cities, states and countries. It also focuses on the location of physical aspects of the earth such as mountains, oceans and rivers. Students of geography learn how to read maps for location and topographical information among other things.
• History: history is a broad subject that includes past events in time. It includes ancient civilizations and modern political events. While some people believe history should be classified as part of the Humanities, others believe it is appropriately classified as a social science because of its analytical and critical nature.
• Information Technology: this relatively new field refers to how people design, use and adapt computers to fit their needs.
• Law: law refers to the study of the rules of a society that are passed by the governing authority. Study of the law often includes how laws are drafted, researched, interpreted and applied.
• Linguistics: linguistics is the scientific study of languages.
• Political Science: as the name implies, political science is the scientific study of politics. Specifically, the discipline includes analysis of political systems, political behavior, public administration, public policy and law.
• Psychology: psychology is the study of human behavior and mental processes. Students of psychology are interested in how mental processes affect behavior rather than the biological reason for the mental processes.
• Sociology: sociology is the study of human social action. It is the study of the rules of society that are not provided by the governing authority but instead become well known and adopted by society at large. Some institutions include the study of criminology in the sociology department.
Why are Social Sciences Important?
Social sciences provide students with similar research skills and analytical thinking skills as the natural sciences. That is what separates the social sciences from the humanities. Therefore, it provides a strong and valuable educational experience for all students.
For those students who are particularly interested in or exhibit talent in a social science field, there are numerous social science employment opportunities. Social scientists become professors, sociologists, psychologists, political scientists, linguists, lawyers, politicians, anthropologists, economists and more. Many of these fields offer exciting and well paying careers for those who pursue them. Utilize e-learning in the classroom.
Social sciences can also lead to a better understanding of humanity. The study of social science disciplines encourages students to examine why humanity did certain things at certain times. It encourages students to hypothesize about why something may or may not be true and then research primary and secondary sources to find the answer and articulately communicate it to their teachers.
It is important to the future of humanity for students to understand its past. The social sciences seeks to make that understanding as accurate as possible by using different methodologies and techniques to come to sound conclusions.
For these reasons, social science is a very important part of a school’s curriculum from kindergarten through twelfth grade and it is a discipline that is supported by the nation’s colleges and universities as well.
Physical Education: An Integral Part of K-12 Education
Do you remember changing into your gym uniform to participate in your physical education class? Better yet, do your children? Different states and different school districts have different policies regarding required physical education classes. It is thought that the current emphasis on standardized test scores, as required by the No Child Left Behind Act, has decreased the availability and emphasis on things such as physical education. However, physical education remains critically important to students in the short and long term.
Short Term Benefits of Physical Education
There are many benefits to school physical education and fitness programs. The benefits are almost immediate and include:
• Fitness is Fun. School is hard work for many students. Some students struggle in their academic classes while other students are gifted learners. Some students fit in socially while other students struggle to make friends. Often, physical education helps to level the playing field. Students have to work together in order to score a goal, a basket or a run. They learn to work together as a team without regard to who earns straight A’s or gets invited to the best parties. This makes every student feel worthwhile and like part of the team.
• Physical Activity Makes Better Learners. Many adults recognize the benefit of taking a break. We often need to clear our minds after completing a challenging report or attending a long meeting. However, many schools have begun requiring that students forego the benefits of a break. The time allotted for lunch, recess and physical education is decreasing. The reason is that administrators feel that students need more time to learn the required academics for standardized tests. Yet, it has been proven that many children learn better if they are given a chance to be physically active during a break from their academic learning.
• Reduced Childhood Obesity. Childhood obesity can lead to lifelong health problems. The best way to prevent childhood obesity is for children to eat well portioned healthy foods and to be physically active. Physical education programs focus on teaching children the importance of physical activity and often include lessons on eating healthy meals and snacks. This helps to reduce childhood obesity and the health problems associated with it.
Long Term Benefits of Physical Education
Perhaps, the most important long term benefit of physical education classes in school is that students learn how to work fitness into their lives and think of fitness and health as a priority.
The short term benefits that students gain through physical education classes are some of the same benefits that adults gain through regular exercise. Therefore, it is important for adults to make working out a habit rather than a chore so that they will remain healthy and fit in adulthood.
Benefits for Students with Disabilities
Students with disabilities often require adaptive physical education. Adaptive physical education is an individualized program that is designed to provide students with disabilities with safe experiences that encourage them to be as active as possible. For students with physical disabilities, an adaptive physical education program may be combined with physical therapy to work on specific motor skills. The adaption of the physical education program often comes in one of four ways. Usually it is the equipment, the rules, the environment or the instructions that are adapted to allow students with disabilities to participate. Special education in K-12.
Barriers to Appropriate Physical Education Programs
Despite the many well documented benefits of physical education programs as part of a school’s curriculum, there are several barriers that keep many schools from having adequate physical education programs.
The two most often cited reasons for lack of appropriate physical education programs are the need to concentrate on academics so that students score well on standardized testing as required by No Child Left Behind and lack of physical education resources.
Physical education requires physical education equipment and physical education teachers require money. Money is tight in many school districts and nonacademic courses such as physical education are often among the first things that are cut out of a budget.
However, because of both the short term and long term benefits discussed above, physical education is a very important part of public school curricula and should not be eliminated due to lack of time or monetary resources.
The Benefits of Music Education
It might seem like the holiday concert at your local elementary school is the goal of music education. Friends and family, undoubtedly, enjoy listening to the chorus and band play the festive holiday tunes. However, there are many benefits of music education that go beyond the public school music education shows and help make individual children better students.
The Impact on Languages
Many people find it easier to remember words and sound when they are set to a tune. Many music students will find that they can easily remember words even if they are in a foreign language. For example, many choruses sing songs in both ancient and modern language such as Italian, Latin and Hebrew during the annual holiday concert. Studying a foreign languages is a requirement for many colleges
Of course, a few songs in a foreign language will not make the student fluent in the foreign language. However, it will make them more aware of similarities between the languages and make it easier for them to pick up the different sounds made in different languages.
The Impact on Math and Science
While many students look forward to music class for the pure enjoyment of it, they remain unaware that their music teachers have developed music education lesson plans that actually help students improve their math and science skills.
As early as elementary school, many music educators teach students how to read music. The ability to read music is not only helpful in music class but also in math class. Students learn to count and to multiply and divide when they learn about half notes, full notes, quarter notes and musical times. Instruction in different tempos also helps students learn about rhythm.
Similarly, science skills are developed when students begin to learn about why different instruments make different sounds. They also learn to hypothesize about what notes or instruments might sound good together and this will help them learn to make educated hypotheses in later science experiments.
The math and science skills remain important beyond early childhood music education. High school students continue to develop their math and science skills by enrolling in music classes.
The Impact on History
Music has played an important part in almost every society for as far back as history has been recorded. Music students may learn about the style of church music in medieval times. They may learn traditional hymns or nursery rhymes from other countries. They may learn the music from plays or movies. All of these things teach students about the history of the time and place when the music was popular. They may learn about the culture of the time through popular dance moves and operas. Music has proven to be a very productive way for many students to learn about different cultures and historical events.
In addition to the many academic benefits of music education, students learn very important social skills in music class. Students need to learn to work together and to follow each other’s cues as they learn to sing a song for chorus or play a song in the band. They also need to learn to watch and interpret the music teacher’s nonverbal cues about when to stop, start, slow down or speed up the music. These social skills will help them ready other people’s important nonverbal body language as they get older. There are many benefits to homeschooling
Music therapy has proven to be very successful for students with disabilities. Music can help children work on physical, emotional or social needs. It gives many children with disabilities a way to communicate and to express their thoughts that might otherwise go unexpressed. It proves to be a stress reliever and a way to manage emotions for children with emotional disabilities who may tend to lose control and need to refocus themselves.
For all children, music education is an important part of their overall education. Whether students join in a mandatory music class or take part in extracurricular activities such as chorus, band or performing arts, they are learning to work together and to develop skills that will help them both academically and socially as they complete their education and move into the work force. For these reasons, many public schools understand the benefits of music education and keep music education as a part of their core curriculum.