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ESEP: Instructional Program and Materials

Nature of Program. The ESEP/Atlanta instructional program is inquiry-centered and hands-on. It is based on new materials--three kit-based science modules per grade level. Each module emphasizes the physical, life, or earth sciences. The instructional materials in the kits enable students to explore certain topics in depth, but do not totally displace the textbooks already in the system. Teachers use the textbooks to cover additional topics mandated by the state curriculum frameworks. Once trained in the kits, teachers are also introduced to instructional methods for converting textbook material to inquiry lessons.

Modules Selected. The modules are from three elementary science programs developed with NSF-funds: the Science and Technology for Children(STC) program, developed by the National Science Resources Center , the Full Option Science System (FOSS), developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science , and Insights , developed by the Education Development Center (EDC). The following matrix shows which modules were adopted at each grade level:

Atlanta Public Schools Matrix of Science Teaching Kits

 Grade Level

 Life Science

 Physical Science

Earth Science 

 K

Animals Two by Two (FOSS)

Balls & Ramps (EDC)

 

1

Life Cycle of Butterflies (STC) 

Solids and Liquids (FOSS) 

Weather (STC) 

2

Habitats (EDC) 

Balance and Motion (FOSS) 

Pebbles, Sand, & Silt (FOSS) 

3

Plant Growth and Development (STC) 

Chemical Tests (STC) 

Soils
(STC)

4

Food Chemistry (STC) 

Magnetism and Electricity (FOSS) 

Rocks and Minerals (STC) 

5

Human Body Systems (Insights) 

Mixtures and Solutions (FOSS) 

Landforms (FOSS) 

Module Selection Process. The modules were selected by a committee of scientists, science educators, teachers, and a principal. Because of time pressures, not all modules for each science area and grade level were subjected to systematic trial teaching. Instead, recommendations were sought from other school districts undertaking systemic reform of their science education programs. Some modules were borrowed from the publishers and trial-taught. Selections were based on state and local curricular guides, the Georgia State frameworks, and criteria developed by the National Science Resources Center .

Phasing-in the Modules. Initially, the ESEP plan was to introduce the new instructional materials over five years, providing three kits to all grade levels in 14-15 schools the first year, to another 14-15 schools the second year, and so on, until all 70 schools had been connected. But pressure from the schools required revising the plan to introduce modules system wide, one grade at a time, starting with the modules for grades 4-5 and ending with those for the kindergarten level.

In many school districts around the country, introduction of three modules in each grade level in less than three years has been considered too stressful for teachers. However, in Atlanta, it seems to be working in part due to the enthusiasm of the teachers, the commitment of school district leaders, and the significant amount of support services made available during the transition.


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