For school students, so much has changed since March 2020: from the way they get to school to how lunch is served to no field trips. In the classroom, interactions with students and teachers have also changed. Students are more isolated from peers, with limited live instruction from beloved teachers, or for many children, no face-to-face learning at all.
But one thing hasn’t changed: students’ natural curiosity.
Thankfully, the state where I earned my master of arts in math and chemistry education, from Rice University, and taught math at St. John’s School in Houston, has developed exceptional resources to help elementary students explore the world from the safety of their homes. I was honored to work with Texas officials to get these materials right.
The Texas Education Agency offers the new, high-quality curricular resources to schools and districts to use for instruction in the classroom, at home, or in combination, through Texas Home Learning 3.0. The curricula in science, math, and English language arts are aligned to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Under those standards, students learn scientific concepts and processes through observation, inquiry, investigation, and reasoning.
In one Grade 3 module, students study the 1900 Galveston hurricane to discover how we can prevent a storm from becoming a disaster. Students observe photographs taken after the hurricane and learn from firsthand accounts of survivors. They develop a seawall model to build a coherent understanding of how to avoid a similar disaster in the future.
Acting as scientists and driving their own learning, students learn how to analyze data, measure patterns, and more. Whether studying how windmills transfer and transform energy into electricity or how animal and plants live in a pond environment, students deepen their knowledge while piquing their interest in the world around them.
Real-life examples such as these make science come alive. Cohesive design makes the learning stick. Forget about wordy textbooks and abstract phenomena. Good curriculum, facilitated by experienced educators, led by students, teaches more than the subject matter.
With well-designed science instruction, students learn how to think, communicate, and collaborate. For example, during every science course via Texas Home Learning 3.0, students learn how to: clarify (what do you mean by that?), reason (why do you think that?), offer evidence (what is your proof?), and collaborate (how would you summarize what your partner said?). These skills will help them in every course in school and in every part of their lives.
I have seen firsthand the power of great science instruction. As a high school junior, my chemistry teacher insisted that we dig into science—even the girls. He pushed us to ask questions and do investigations, providing very few answers and allowing discovery.
I was one of the lucky ones. When most students were learning science by sitting quietly, listening, and memorizing, I was experiencing science. In a time when girls and women weren’t encouraged to study math and science and there were few options for people of color, I was lucky to have a teacher and a school that gave me access to everything I wanted to study.
That class inspired me to want to know more about science, leading to a career as a chemical engineer in Louisiana and later to a graduate degree in math and chemistry education, which allowed me to share my passion with students.
With Texas Home Learning, all Texas students will have access to a curriculum that can have the same transformative effect on today’s generations of students.
Pam Goodner, chief academic officer
Pam leads a team of teacher-writers in developing PhD Science, Great Minds’ latest curriculum offering. She joined Great Minds in 2012 as a writer for Eureka Math after spending 25 years in the classroom. Pam taught math and science in grades 6 – 12, serving as the Mathematics Department Chair and receiving the Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics for the state of Louisiana in 2009. She is a National Board Certified Teacher and taught online college calculus for the University of California Irvine and the Louisiana Virtual School. Pam is a Chemical Engineer and spent 5 years working in the chemical industry, leading safety, health, environmental, and quality teams. She has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Louisiana State University and an M.A.T. in math and chemistry from Rice University