Blue Flower

Children have substantial knowledge of the natural world before entering school. What children are capable of depends on prior education, not just age and grade.Students' knowledge and experience influence science understanding.

  • Race and ethnicity, language, culture, gender, and socioeconomic status influence the knowledge and experience that students have.
  • Students learn science by actively engaging in science practices.
  • A range of approaches is needed in order for students to be proficient in science.
  • Doing science entails much more than reciting facts or being able to design experiments.
  • To develop a strong understanding of science, students in elementary and middle school should be encouraged to master a relatively small number of crucial concepts, and gradually expand their knowledge of those topics.
  • Too often, students are presented with a long list of disconnected facts and ideas, leaving them with no sense of what is most important and a poor understanding of the overall rules of science.

The next generation of science standards and curricula at the national and state levels should be centered on a few core ideas and should expand on them each year, at increasing levels of complexity, across grades K–8.

Four Strands of Science Proficiency

Four intertwined and equally important strands comprise the NRC's definition of proficiency in science. All K–8 education should offer students opportunities to engage in the four strands of science proficiency.

The four strands include:

  • Develop the ability to know, use, and interpret scientific explanation of the natural world.
  • Generate and evaluate scientific evidence.
  • Understand the development of scientific knowledge.
  • Learn to participate productively in scientific practices and discussions.