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BVSD Content Standards and Proposed Benchmarks

BVSD Content Standards and Proposed Benchmarks
BVSD Content Standards and Proposed Benchmarks  The Processes of Science 
Essentials for the Implementation of Excellent Science Education 
The Themes of Science 
The Principles of Science 
Focus Meeting 
Science Curriculum Council Members 
Introduction to the Science Standards 

The Boulder Valley Schools Science Content Standards specify what all students should know and be able to demonstrate as a result of their K-12 experiences. These standards reflect rigorous expectations and outline the essential level of science knowledge and skills needed by all citizens to participate productively in our increasingly complex society. These standards will be met with developmentally appropriate activities at all grade levels, from initial explorations in Kindergarten through increasingly organized and focused science instruction in the higher grades. The BVSD standards are based on the Colorado standards, but include additional benchmarks. 

Science is a systematic inquiry directed toward an understanding of natural systems, which in turn creates new knowledge. The essence of "science" is not so much in what the subject of the inquiry is, but in how the inquiry is carried out. The way in which science is conducted has come to be called the scientific method. This method cannot be defined in a rigid series of steps, but it is heavily grounded in the collecting of information (data), doing experiments, and constructing models. Scientific inquiry requires skepticism and the willingness to have others scrutinize and attempt to reproduce results. Practicing scientists create new knowledge by building on and expanding the established knowledge base. 

Science education is responsible for conveying the established knowledge base while emphasizing the processes used by scientists to create new knowledge. A complete science education includes learning the processes, themes, principles, and tools of science. Each of these elements is integral to the system of inquiry, which we call "science." Each one is described in more detail in the following appendix. 

Technology and science are closely related. A single problem often has both scientific and technological aspects. The need to answer questions in the natural world drives the development of technological products; moreover, technological need can drive scientific research. Technological products provide tools that promote the understanding of natural phenomena. 

Curriculum revision is in process but not yet complete. To assist the reader, examples or illustrations have been included to elucidate the standard. Where such examples appear in parentheses, they are included as possible topics that may be used to teach the process, principle, or theme. Teachers are expected to utilize their expertise and backgrounds, as well as student interests and experiences, to select or expand upon such topics. 

Standard #1: Students understand the processes of scientific investigation and are able to design, conduct, communicate about, and evaluate such investigation. 

RATIONALE: Scientific investigation (inquiry) often begins with a question or problem and usually ends with further questions to investigate. Inquiry in the science classroom helps students develop a useful base of scientific knowledge communicated in increasingly mathematical and conceptual ways as they progress through school by making connections to prior learning. Inquiry stimulates student interest, motivation, and creativity. This content standard helps students understand how science works and explains how the body of scientific knowledge is increased. 

In Grades K-4, what the students know and are able to do includes 

  • asking questions and stating predictions that can be addressed through scientific investigation;
  • using observable or existing data to construct a reasonable explanation;
  • selecting and using simple devices to gather data related to an investigation (e.g., measuring instruments, thermometers, watches, magnifiers, microscopes, calculators, computers);
  • communicating their work in various ways, (e.g., written form, graphic displays, oral presentations);
  • developing strategies to solve scientific problems; and
  • using the metric system as the universally accepted scientific standard of measurement.
As students in Grades 5-8 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • explaining and using the scientific methods;
  • asking questions that guide scientific inquiry and investigations;
  • creating a written plan for investigation;
  • using appropriate tools, technologies, and metric-based units to gather and analyze data;
  • estimating how much uncertainty (error) is associated with common measuring devices and procedures;
  • organizing, displaying, and evaluating experimental data (e.g. charts, graphs, data tables);
  • identifying relevant scientific information from a variety of sources;
  • constructing possible explanations and models using evidence;
  • understanding the relationships between evidence and explanations (e.g. provides cause for effects);
  • defending conclusions by presenting logical arguments about relationships between evidence and explanations;
  • recognizing and analyzing alternative explanations and procedures;
  • asking additional questions and/or predicting future events based on results generated by original investigation;
  • communicating their work in various ways, (e.g., written reports, graphic displays, oral presentations);
  • using collaborative skills to solve scientific problems and share findings; and
  • explaining the relationships among laws, theories, and hypotheses (e.g., a theory is the most probable explanation of a natural occurrence; it is derived from a hypothesis that has been repeatedly tested).
As students in Grades 9-12 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • asking questions and using prior science knowledge to guide their scientific investigations;
  • creating and defending a written plan of action for a scientific investigation (e.g. formulating testable hypotheses, identifying and clarifying method, controls, and variable);
  • selecting and using appropriate technologies to gather, process, and analyze data (including metric-based measurements) related to an investigation;
  • describing sources of error or uncertainty involved in an investigation;
  • constructing and revising scientific explanations and models using evidence and logic;
  • evaluating alternative explanations, models, and conclusions (e.g., looking for connections between natural phenomena, investigations, and the historical body of scientific knowledge);
  • communicating, defending, or refuting scientific thinking that leads to particular conclusions; and
  • applying scientific method to real world situations.

Standard #2: Students know and understand common physical and chemical properties, forms of matter and energy, and the laws that define their interactions. 

2.1 Students know that matter has characteristic properties, which are related to its composition and structure. 

RATIONALE: Everyone has experience with matter in a variety of forms. Such experiences help build studentsí understanding of similarities and differences in the properties of matter. Their personal experiences help students understand common properties, such as hardness, strength, color, shape, and states of matter (e.g., solid, liquid, gaseous). Knowledge of observable properties of matter and its structure and composition is helpful in considering matterís varied uses, availability, and limitations in our world. 

In Grades K-4, what the students know and are able to do includes 

  • examining, describing, comparing, classifying, and measuring matter on the basis of its common physical properties, (e.g., size, shape, texture, density, color);
  • creating and separating mixtures according to physical properties (e.g., salt and sand, iron filings and soil, oil and water);
  • understanding that certain substances (e.g., gases, dry ice) require special handling; and
  • recognizing that substances exist in different states (e.g., solid, liquid, gas).
As students in Grades 5-8 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • examining, measuring, describing, comparing, and classifying matter on the basis of its common physical and chemical properties, (e.g., density, boiling point, melting point, magnetism, solubility);
  • separating mixtures of substances based on their physical and chemical properties;
  • classifying and describing matter in terms of categories, (e.g., atoms, molecules, elements, compounds, mixtures, solutions);
  • describing and using special precautions in handling common materials (e.g., solvents, cleaners, fuels, paints based on their properties); and
  • developing models to explain observed properties of matter (e.g., using a particle model to account for the solubility of a substance).

As students in Grades 9-12 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 

  • observing, describing, measuring, classifying, and predicting common properties of substances, (e.g., chemical reactivity, electrical conductivity, radioactivity, periodicity);
  • writing and using chemical equations to represent matter and its changes;
  • knowing methods used to separate mixtures based on their physical and chemical properties (e.g., colors, solubilities, boiling points, magnetic properties, densities);
  • knowing that matter can be classified and described in terms of categories (e.g., atoms, molecules, elements, compounds, mixtures, and solutions); and
  • recognizing and demonstrating the difference among mixtures, elements, and compounds.

2.2 Students know that energy appears in different forms and can be transferred and transformed. 

RATIONALE: Energy is a central concept in science because all physical interactions involve changes in energy. Students need to understand that all physical events involve transferring energy or changing one form of energy into another. An understanding of energy, including knowledge of forms of energy and its transfer and transformation, is essential to explaining, interpreting, predicting, and influencing change in our world. 

In Grades K-4, what the students know and are able to do includes 

  • understanding that energy in its various forms (e.g., radiant, chemical, mechanical, thermal, nuclear) can affect common objects and is involved in common events;
  • gathering data on quantities associated with energy, movement, and change; and
  • comparing quantities associated with energy movement and change (e.g., by constructing simple diagrams or charts).
As students in Grades 5-8 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • measuring quantities associated with energy forms (e.g., temperature, mass, time, distance, electrical charge, current, voltage); and
  • describing qualitative and quantitative relationships using data, observations and graphs associated with energy transfer or energy transformation (e.g., speed of object versus height of ramp).

As students in Grades 9-12 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 

  • measuring, calculating, and analyzing quantitative relationships involved with energy forms such as radiant, mechanical, electrical, thermal, chemical, and nuclear;
  • measuring, calculating, and analyzing quantities associated with energy transfer and transformation (e.g., changes in temperature, acceleration, momentum, voltage, current); and
  • differentiating between various forms of potential or kinetic energy.

2.3 Students understand that interactions can produce changes in a system, although the total quantities of matter and energy remain unchanged. 

RATIONALE: Interactions between matter and energy account for changes observed in everyday events. Understanding how matter and energy interact extends studentsí knowledge of the physical world and allows them to monitor and explain a wide variety of changes and to predict future physical and chemical changes. Students gain both practical and conceptual understanding of the laws of conservation of matter and energy. 

In Grades K-4, what the students know and are able to do includes 

  • observing and describing parts of systems (e.g., terrarium, aquarium);
  • describing an observed change (e.g., a melting ice cube, crystal growth, burning candle, physical breakage) in terms of starting conditions, type of change, and ending conditions using words, diagrams, or graphs;
  • predicting what changes and what remains unchanged when matter experiences an external influence (e.g., a push or pull, addition or removal of heat, division of clay into pieces, melting an ice cube, changing a ball of clay to a flattened shape); and
  • understanding that there are rules that describe the movement of things (e.g., laws of motion and gravity).
As students in Grades 5-8 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • identifying, predicting, and testing what will and will not change when matter experiences a force or energy effect (e.g., comparing the force, distance, and work involved in simple machines);
  • identifying and classifying factors causing change, such as force, energy gradient (e.g., gravitational, kinetic, potential, thermal) within particular systems;
  • recognizing physical and chemical changes in terms of the conservation laws of matter and energy (e.g., energy and matter cannot be created or destroyed);
  • describing, measuring, and calculating quantities (e.g., temperature, mass, volume, melting point) before and after a chemical or physical change within a system (e.g., temperature change, mass transfer); and
  • describing, measuring, and calculating quantities (e.g., time, distance, mass, force) that characterize moving objects and their interactions within a system (e.g., force, velocity, acceleration, potential energy, kinetic energy).
As students in Grades 9-12 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • describing and explaining physical and chemical changes in terms of the conservation laws of matter and energy;
  • describing and measuring quantities, such as temperature, mass, volume, and melting points of substances before and after a chemical change;
  • describing and measuring quantities (e.g., time, distance, mass, force, velocity, acceleration, kinetic energy) that characterize moving objects;
  • identifying factors that influence chemical and physical interaction (e.g., surface area, concentration, catalysis, energy);
  • observing, measuring, and predicting chemical changes, providing evidence for these changes, and describing these changes using chemical equations;
  • observing, measuring, and predicting physical interactions which result in changes in motion, force, momentum, work, power, etc.); and
  • using scientific models to describe and explain a chemical or physical change.

Standard #3: Students know and understand the characteristics, structures, processes, and relationships of organisms and how these may be affected by environmental changes and the passages of time. 

3.1 Students investigate the diversity, physical characteristics, and life processes of organisms. 

RATIONALE: The diversity of life is based on cellular variations and multicellular organization. All living species have in common certain molecules and cellular mechanisms. Students learn that all organisms are composed of cells, grow and develop, need energy, reproduce, respond to stimuli, and maintain their internal environment. Through study of classification, students learn differences in organisms. 

In Grades K-4, what the students know and are able to do includes 

  • recognizing which characteristics distinguish living things from non-living things;
  • classifying a variety of organisms according to physical characteristics;
  • understanding the functions and parts of major body systems (e.g., digestive, respiratory, skeletal);
  • understanding that organisms progress through life cycles of birth, growth and development, reproduction, and death; and
  • identifying some major communicable diseases and the ways they are spread.
As students in Grades 5-8 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • identifying and defining the major components of a cell and their functions in the cell;
  • comparing and contrasting the life cycles of different organisms;
  • describing the structure and function of major body systems (e.g., digestive, respiratory, skeletal);
  • describing diseases and various methods of reducing chances of disease or injury;
  • differentiating the levels of organization in living systems (e.g., cells, tissues, organs), their positions within the whole organism, and the complementary nature of structure and function at each level;
  • recognizing that organisms have a variety of specialized structures that perform specialized functions (e.g., transporting nutrients and other required materials);
  • knowing that there are basic characteristics (e.g., internal structure, chemical processes) that all organisms share;
  • investigating and describing the development and growth of organisms (e.g., metamorphism, life cycles);
  • classifying organisms based on their structure; and
  • comparing and contrasting the life cycles of different organisms.
As students in Grades 9-12 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • describing the structure and functions of different cell organelles (e.g., nucleus, chloroplst, mitochondrion, Golgi apparatus, vacuole, ribosome);
  • examining the relationships of structure and functions of cells, tissues, organs, and systems, and the interactions among them;
  • understanding basic processes for maintaining homeostasis;
  • comparing body systems among different types of organisms;
  • describing the pattern and processes of reproduction and development in several organisms; and
  • comparing and contrasting various types of medical disorders (e.g., accidental, infectious, genetic) and their treatments.

3.2 Students know how matter cycles and energy transforms through living systems, both within organisms and between organisms. 

RATIONALE: Energy is required for all living systems to exist. Some organisms capture the energy of the Sun through the process of photosynthesis, which converts solar energy to chemical energy stored in complex molecules. Animals and other organisms get their energy by consuming the bodies of other organisms. Energy is used by the organism to sustain its life and is finally converted to waste heat which is released to the environment. 

In Grades K-4, what the students know and are able to do includes 

  • identifying that green plants need light to live and animals must consume plants and other animals to live;
  • tracing the flow of energy through a food chain;
  • understanding that materials in nature are recycled, and that these cycles are important for life (e.g., the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen between plants and animals); and
  • describing the basic types of food needed in the diet of living organisms and the importance of water.

As students in Grades 5-8 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 

  • describing the basic processes of photosynthesis and respiration and their importance to life;
  • comparing and contrasting the flow of energy through food webs and energy pyramids; and
  • describing the role of organisms in decomposition and recycling of nutrients (e.g., the role of bacteria, worms).
As students in Grades 9-12 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • explaining how simple molecules can be built into larger organic molecules within living organisms in processes (e.g., protein synthesis, photosynthesis, and chemosynthesis;
  • explaining how large molecules, (e.g., starch and protein), are broken down into smaller molecules and release energy;
  • explaining how energy is used in growth, maintenance, and differentiation; and
  • explaining major chemical cycles, (e.g., nitrogen and carbon).

 3.3 Students know and understand how organisms interact with each other and with the environment. 

RATIONALE: Living organisms share certain basic needs. The make-up of each organism allows it to fulfill its needs and determines how it functions in its environment. No organism lives independently of others; changes in one group of organisms affect others in their environment. All organisms rely on non-living factors in their environment. 

In Grades K-4, what the students know and are able to do includes 

  • identifying the basic needs of organisms (e.g. food, water, shelter); and
  • describing and modeling the components (e.g., producer, consumer, population) of various ecosystems (e.g., mountain, pond, prairie).
As students in Grades 5-8 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • recognizing that interrelationships exist among organisms (e.g., predator/prey, population dynamics);
  • explaining the interactions of non-living and living components within ecosystems;
  • recognizing factors that affect an environment's ability to support populations (e.g., water quality and availability, space, nutrients);
  • comparing and contrasting different ecosystems; and
  • describing the importance of adaptations in organisms.
As students in Grades 9-12 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • predicting and describing the effect on an organism when its environment is altered;
  • explaining that adaptations of an organism (e.g., structure and behavior) affect how it lives in the environment;
  • explaining that the equilibrium of ecosystems is dynamic (e.g. changes in living organisms and/or their environments can disrupt an ecosystem, but ecosystems will adapt and return to a state of equilibrium); and
  • explaining the relationship between biodiversity and global sustainability.

3.4 Students know and understand how organisms change over time in terms of evolution and genetics. 

RATIONALE: Heredity is controlled by genes made of DNA. Genes are directly responsible for what an organism becomes and how it evolves. Variation, inheritance, and natural selection result in long-term change in populations. 

In Grades K-4, what the students know and are able to do includes 

  • recognizing that there are similarities and differences or variations in appearance among individuals of the same population or group due to heredity;
  • recognizing that plants and animals have different characteristics that help them adapt to their environment; and
  • identifying examples of extinct organisms based on fossil or other historical evidence.
As students in Grades 5-8 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • describing the role of chromosomes and genes in heredity;
  • explaining basic principles of genetic processes (e.g., meiosis); and
  • describing evidence of evolution, (e.g., the fossil record, radioactive dating).

As students in Grades 9-12 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 

  • comparing and contrasting the process and purpose of mitosis and meiosis;
  • describing how DNA serves as the vehicle for genetic continuity and the source of genetic diversity upon which natural selection can act;
  • calculating the probability that an individual will inherit a particular single-gene trait;
  • giving examples to show that some gene expression can be affected by interaction with the environment (e.g., skin cancer triggered by over-exposure to sunlight, contact with chemical carcinogens);
  • describing how species change through time due to evolutionary mechanisms;
  • explaining why variation within a population improves the chances that the species will survive under new environmental conditions;
  • using a classification system to classify organisms in terms of their evolutionary origins; and
  • knowing the chemical and structural properties of DNA and its role in specifying the characteristics of an organism.

Standard #4: Students know and understand the structure, processes, interactions, and dynamics of the Earth and other objects in space. 

4.1 Students know and understand the composition of Earth, its history, and the human and other natural processes that shape it. 

RATIONALE: By studying Earth, its composition, history, and the processes that shape it, students gain a better understanding of the planet on which they live. Landforms, resources, and natural events, such as earthquakes, flooding, and volcanic eruptions, affect the location of population centers. Life throughout geologic time has been, and continues to be, affected by changes that occur on Earthís surface. 

As students in Grades K-4 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 

  • describing different types and uses of Earth materials (e.g., rocks, soil, minerals);
  • recognizing how fossils are formed and that they are evidence of past life;
  • identifying major features of Earthís surface (e.g., mountains, rivers, plains, hills, oceans, plateaus);
  • describing processes that change Earthís surface (e.g., weathering, erosion, volcanic activity);
  • describing how humans are affected by natural events (e.g., earthquakes, volcanoes, floods);
  • describing the three major groups of rocks (i.e., sedimentary, igneous, metamorphic) and how they are formed; and
  • understanding how humans impact their environment (e.g., deforestation, aquifer depletion).
As students in Grades 5-8 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • explaining and identifying the components and processes of the rock cycle;
  • explaining the formation and use of Earth materials (e.g., rocks, minerals, soils);
  • explaining how fossils are formed and used as evidence to indicate life has changed through time;
  • explaining the distribution and causes of natural events that shape/change the Earth's surface and environment (e.g., weathering, erosion, glaciation, asteroids, comets, earthquakes, volcanoes); and
  • using the theory of plate tectonics to explain relationships among geological phenomena (e.g., earthquakes, volcanoes, mid-ocean ridges, and deep-sea trenches).
As students in Grades 9-12 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • describing the composition and structure of Earthís interior;
  • explaining the transfer of matter and energy between Earthís systems (e.g., lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, biosphere);
  • using evidence (e.g., fossils, rock layers, ice caves, radiometric dating) to investigate how Earth has changed over long periods of time;
  • evaluating the impacts of natural events (e.g., earthquakes, floods, landslides) on human and natural systems;
  • analyzing the cost, benefits, and consequences of natural resources exploration, development, and consumption; and
  • exploring the impact of plate tectonics upon all living things.

4.2 Students know and understand the general characteristics of the atmosphere, including climate and fundamental processes of weather. 

RATIONALE: Our Earthís atmosphere is vital to life. The Sun, atmosphere, and local climate affect every aspect of our lives, including work productivity, food supply, energy use, transportation, recreation, environmental quality, and human health and safety. Preparedness and response to weather conditions require knowledge of how energy transfer influences atmospheric changes. 

As students in Grades K-4 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 

  • understanding that the Sun is a major source of Earthís heat and light;
  • describing existing weather conditions by collecting and recording weather data (e.g., temperature, precipitation, humidity, air pressure, type of cloud cover);
  • recognizing how our activities are affected by the weather; and
  • describing how climate varies in different locations (e.g., coastal, mountain, desert, polar, equatorial).

As students in Grades 5-8 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 

  • investigating the composition, characteristics, and structure of the atmosphere and its significance to life;
  • explaining how atmospheric circulation is driven by an interaction between the Sun, Earth's surface, atmosphere and hydrosphere;
  • using weather data to model and predict local and national weather patterns (e.g., collecting, plotting and interpreting weather data);
  • investigating factors that influence weather (e.g., barometric pressure, humidity); and
  • investigating factors that influence climate (e.g., topography, radiant energy, and organisms).
As students in Grades 9-12 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • explaining relationships between human activities, weather, and climate;
  • explaining how the structure and composition of the atmosphere affects life on Earth;
  • describing how energy transfer within the atmosphere influences weather (e.g., the role of conduction, radiation, convection, and heat of condensation in clouds, precipitation, winds, storms);
  • investigating and explaining the occurrence and effects of storms on human populations and the environment; and
  • describing and explaining natural factors that may influence weather and climate (e.g., proximity to oceans, prevailing winds, and volcanic eruptions).

4.3 Students know and understand major sources of water, its uses and importance, and its cyclic patterns of movement through the environment. 

RATIONALE: The worldís water is vital to life. Knowing the properties of water, its influences on weather and climate, and its availability is necessary for understanding its importance to life. The availability and quality of water are controlling influences upon the environment and human activities. 

In Grades K-4, what the students know and are able to do includes 

  • identifying major sources of water (e.g., oceans, glaciers, rivers, atmosphere);
  • identifying and describing the physical states in which water can be found on Earth;
  • understanding that water is an essential resource; and
  • investigating and describing the processes by which water moves through the environment (e.g., evaporation, condensation, precipitation).
As students in Grades 5-8 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • investigating and comparing the unique properties and behavior of water in its solid, liquid, and gaseous states;
  • describing and comparing the distribution of the world's water in oceans, glaciers, rivers, ground water, and the atmosphere;
  • explaining the circulation of water through Earth's systems;
  • describing the composition and physical characteristics of oceans (e.g., currents, waves, features of the ocean floor, salinity); and
  • describing the community and regional water systems in terms of sources, storage, treatment, and distribution.
As students in Grades 9-12 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • identifying and explaining factors that influence the quality of water needed to sustain life;
  • explaining interactions between the hydrosphere and other Earth systems, (e.g., the biosphere, lithosphere, atmosphere);
  • identifying and analyzing the costs, benefits, and consequences of using water resources; and
  • explaining interrelationships between the circulation of oceans and weather and climate.

4.4 Students know and understand the structure of the solar system, the composition and dynamics of the universe, and how and why space was and is explored. 

RATIONALE: Astronomical observations result in the development of ways to measure time and predict natural phenomena. All bodies in space, including Earth and the solar system, are influenced by forces acting throughout the universe. Studying the universe enhances our understanding of Earthís origins. Much of what we know about Earthís atmosphere and our solar system are due to space exploration. 


In Grades K-4, what the students know and are able to do includes 

  • describing the characteristics of seasons (e.g., weather patterns, differing amounts of daylight, differing intensities of heat);
  • describing what can be readily observed by the unaided eye in the daytime and nighttime sky;
  • recognizing and describing the basic components of the solar system;
  • describing space exploration events (e.g., manned or unmanned space missions);
  • describing the motion of Earth in relation to the Sun (e.g., the concepts of day, night, and year); and
  • comparing relative sizes and distances of objects in the solar system.
As students in Grades 5-8 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • explaining the effects (e.g. seasons, moon phases, and eclipses) of motions (e.g., rotation, revolution) of the Sun-Earth-moon-system in space;
  • explaining the impact of the Sun and solar events on the Earthís systems (e.g., solar wind, aurora);
  • describing the basic components, composition, size, and theories of origin of the solar system;
  • recognizing and using astronomical measurements (e.g. astronomical units, light years) of distance;
  • identifying the technology and conditions needed for space exploration;
  • comparing Earth to other objects in space (e.g., size, composition);
  • analyzing the characteristics and life cycles of stars, including our Sun; and
  • recognizing the immensity, complexity, and structure of the universe (e.g., galaxies, quasars).
As students in Grades 9-12 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • explaining the causes of and modeling the varied lengths of days, seasons, and phases of the moon;
  • describing the effect of gravitation on the motions observed in the solar system and beyond;
  • describing electromagnetic radiation produced by the Sun and other stars;
  • identifying and describing the everyday impact of recent space technology (e.g., more sophisticated computers, remote sensing, medical imaging);
  • explaining how the Earth and universe changed over different scales of time;
  • using standard astronomical measurements (light years and astronomical units) to express distances between objects and systems in the universe; and
  • comparing common characteristics of star types in the universe (e.g. color, size, age, and temperature).

 Standard #5: Students know and evaluate interrelationships among science, technology, and human activity and how they can affect the world. 

RATIONALE: It is certain that the role of science and technology in our lives is increasingly prominent. Citizens cannot fully participate ó as workers, voters, or consumers ó without scientific literacy. The effective teaching of science is necessary if humankind hopes to attain a sustainable future. 

In Grades K-4, what the students know and are able to do includes 

  • describing the diversity and interrelationships of Earthís resources;
  • recognizing the role and the use of technology in their personal lives;
  • knowing about activities that can affect their communities (e.g., participating in a recycling effort);
  • identifying ways that natural events influence human activity and the use of technology (e.g., alternative energy, weather predictions);
  • identifying careers that use science and technology;
  • recognizing that human activities impact the Earthís ecosystems; and
  • identifying an everyday problem (or task) and possible solutions (e.g., an invention or new way of doing something).
As students in Grades 5-8 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • identifying renewable and non-renewable resources and their human uses;
  • describing the impact of various technologies and their use in the community;
  • describing how community factors (e.g., social needs, attitudes, beliefs) influence technological development;
  • describing and identifying community activities that can affect the solution to environmental and technological problems;
  • describing how scientists and technicians use science and technology in their professions;
  • describing advantages and disadvantages that might accompany the introduction of a new technology (e.g., mountain bikes, cellular telephones, pagers);
  • identifying actions that ease or perpetuate environmental problems; and
  • investigating the development of an existing invention (e.g. determining what prompted the invention and what previous technology led up to it).
As students in Grades 9-12 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • analyzing the benefits, costs, and trade-offs involved in using technological resources, (e.g., agricultural chemical applications);
  • analyzing how the introduction of a new technology has affected or could affect human activity (e.g., invention of the telescope, applications of modern telecommunications);
  • identifying the use of technology in a variety of careers;
  • demonstrating the interrelationships between science and technology (e.g., building a bridge, designing a better running shoe);
  • applying their knowledge and understanding of chemical and physical interactions to explain present and future technologies (e.g., lasers, ultrasound, superconducting materials, photocopy machines); and
  • analyzing how human attitudes and values have impacted the development and introduction of a new technology.


Standard #6: Students understand that science involves a particular way of knowing and understanding common connections among different scientific disciplines. 

RATIONALE: The processes of science, such as observing, appreciating, interpreting, applying, communicating, investigating, creating, integrating, evaluating, and decision-making are universal, extending through all areas of study. The underlying themes common to all science disciplines are systems, scale, change, patterns, equilibrium, and uncertainty. All science disciplines involve speculation that leads to a theory, and then to experiments to test that theory. Scientific concepts, principles, laws, theories, and paradigms result from these processes. 

In Grades K-4, what the students know and are able to do includes 

  • recognizing that well-designed science investigations should be repeatable;
  • identifying the diversity and scale of living and non-living things;
  • identifying observable patterns and changes in their daily lives (e.g., life cycles, weather changes);
  • recognizing a model and comparing it to what it represents;
  • comparing knowledge gained from direct experience to knowledge gained indirectly (e.g., collecting data about studentsí heights in their class and comparing the results to similar data collected in another class or school); and
  • knowing that a variety of individuals and cultures have contributed to the development scientific inventions, theories, or discoveries.
As students in Grades 5-8 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • controlling variables and conditions related to patterns, change, and equilibrium;
  • identifying and diagramming natural cycles involving systems (e.g., water, planetary motion, geological change, and climate);
  • identifying and predicting cause-effect relationships in a system (e.g. the effect of temperature on the volume of a gas sample);
  • using a model (e.g. a computer simulation, video sequence), to predict an event;
  • using scale in the description and comparison of living things and objects;
  • explaining why variables must be controlled in an experiment;
  • giving examples of how scientific knowledge changes as new knowledge is acquired and previous ideas are modified; and
  • describing contributions to the advancement of science made by people in different cultures and at different times in history.
As students in Grades 9-12 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • using graphs and equations to analyze systems and extrapolate future events;
  • analyzing both cyclic and chaotic changes (e.g., pendulums, wave phenomena, climate change), and describing the changes in terms of cycle length and frequency;
  • testing a model (e.g., a mathematical expression of gas behavior, a model for the particulate nature of matter); ¼LI>identifying and predicting cause-effect relationships within a system (e.g., the effect of temperature on gas volume, effect of carbon dioxide level on the greenhouse effect, effects of changing nutrients at the base of a food pyramid);
  • evaluating critically print and visual media for scientific evidence, bias, or opinion;
  • understanding that the scientific way of knowing uses a critique and consensus process (e.g., peer review, openness to criticism, logical arguments, skepticism);
  • identifying and describing the dynamics of natural systems (e.g., weather systems, ecological systems, body systems, systems at dynamic equilibrium);
  • understanding an exponential model (e.g., pH scale, population growth, Richter scale);
  • refining a hypothesis based on an accumulation of data over time (e.g., intermolecular forces related to physical properties); and
  • knowing the contributions of individuals and cultures to the development of inventions, theories, and discoveries.


Standard #7: Students know how to appropriately select and safely and effectively use tools (including laboratory materials, equipment and electronic resources) to conduct scientific investigations. 

RATIONALE: Conducting scientific inquiry requires that students have easy, equitable, and frequent opportunities to use a wide variety of equipment, materials, and supplies. This inquiry relies on experimental data that is usually derived from sets of measurements. Accurate measurements depend on the abilities of the measurer to choose and to use equipment, such as thermometers, balances, graduated cylinders, voltmeters, and computers. Proper care of equipment helps foster respect for tools of science. Safe lab experiences arise from learning and following proper lab procedures and safety guidelines. 

In Grades K-4, what the students know and are able to do includes 

  • knowing and following proper lab and safety procedures for grade appropriate work;
  • selecting and using appropriate equipment to measure characteristics of objects such as length, volume, mass, weight, temperature, and time (e.g., comparing mass on a balance, measuring weight on a scale);
  • using appropriate units with measured values;
  • using equipment and tools (e.g., hand lenses, simple compound microscopes) to gather data and extend the senses;
  • using responsible behavior and humane procedures when handling biological specimens;
  • using electronic information resources (e.g., computer, databases, internet); and
  • caring for science equipment and laboratory facilities.
As students in Grades 5-8 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • knowing and following proper lab and safety procedures for grade appropriate work;
  • following safe and non-contaminating procedures when handling chemicals;
  • selecting and using appropriate equipment to measure characteristics of objects (e.g., length, volume, mass, temperature) to proper levels of accuracy;
  • using appropriate units with measured values;
  • reading a graduated cylinder/pipette correctly by noting the bottom of the meniscus with precision;
  • reading both analog and digital meters (e.g., voltmeters, ammeters, pH meters);
  • using simple compound microscopes, preparing wet mounts of live microscopic specimens, and performing simple staining procedures for microscopy;
  • using electronic information resources (e.g., internet, databases, CD-ROM);
  • using various mathematical, graphical, and scientific modeling tools (e.g., electronic graphic calculators, spreadsheets); and
  • demonstrating proper care for science equipment and laboratory facilities.
As students in Grades 9-12 extend their knowledge, what they know and are able to do includes 
  • knowing and following proper lab and safety procedures for grade-appropriate work;
  • knowing the hazards and precautions needed when working with chemicals and performing fume-producing experiments, (including the disposal of hazardous materials);
  • calculating derived quantities (e.g., velocity, density, resistance;
  • using the correct number of significant digits for all measured and derived values;
  • applying microscopic technique to support in-depth, observation and experimentation;
  • using computers and other electronic resources for activities, such as measurement, storing and retrieving information, gathering information, constructing graphs, and conducting simulations; and
  • caring for science equipment and laboratory facilities.


The Processes of Science 

Scientific inquiry involves processes, which are also applicable to non-scientific disciplines. For example, processes such as observing, appreciating, interpreting, applying, communicating, investigating, creating, integrating, evaluating, and decision-making extend universally to other areas of study. Science is unique in the way in which these processes are organized. Two important and commonly interrelated methods of inquiry in science are the SCIENTIFIC METHOD and MODELING. 

The SCIENTIFIC METHOD (figure 1) embodies components (creative, empirical, analytical, and evaluative) which are special, but not unique, to science. These components contain and are linked by the processes within the scientific method. Scientific knowledge is built by repeatedly cycling through these components. Throughout the practice of science, the scientist must maintain honesty, skepticism, and openness to new ideas. 


Components of Scientific Method
  • Creative Component - Scientists speculate, pose and refine questions, design and revise tests of hypotheses, create applications of scientific knowledge, and use creative processes in many phases of the scientific method.
  • Empirical Component - The scientist examines phenomena by doing tests and collecting data. This component emphasizes process skills, such as observing, collecting, measuring, and estimating.
  • Analytical Component - The scientist uses analytical techniques to study problems, hypotheses, processes, data, and principles. Analysis emphasizes process skills, such as organizing, classifying, identifying variables, graphing, modeling, inferring, and calculating.
  • Evaluative Component - The scientist evaluates problems, hypotheses, processes, and data analyses. Also, the relationship of new knowledge to existing knowledge is evaluated. Scientists communicate results orally and in written form in order to gather reactions from other investigators and to inform the public of their findings. The evaluative component includes skills, such as interpreting, synthesizing, communicating, and decision-making.
MODELING. One way to use the Scientific Method involves models. Models represent systems in a simplified form. As inquiry tools, models are designed, applied, and evaluated using components of the scientific method. Models may be physical (devices, processes), conceptual (metaphors, analogies), or mathematical (equations, computer simulation). Models, while limited, will suggest additional productive directions for further investigations. Their development and use requires integration of creative, empirical, analytical, and evaluative components. 

The Themes of Science 

Certain themes are important in all areas of science. Themes help to define and organize the scope of inquiry. Themes provide frameworks within which people with different perspectives can investigate and discuss science. 

The SYSTEM is the overarching theme in science. A system is a unified whole composed of interrelated components and the processes and relationships, which affect them. Some components of systems may be objects, organisms, processes, or organizational arrangements. Examples of systems in science include an atom, the solar system, a living cell, a weather system, an ecosystem, a space station, and the Earth itself. Systems are interrelated and commonly contain smaller-scale systems within themselves. Underlying themes of pattern, scale, change, and equilibrium refine the scope and organization of an inquiry. These themes provide common ground for investigating and interpreting components, processes, and relationships among systems. 

Patterns - Systems evolve and organize over time and space in simple or complex patterns. Patterns occur in a diverse range of systems, system components, or processes. Recognizing these patterns leads to an understanding and appreciation of relationship, which recur within and between systems. Patterns may include physical laws, drainage patterns, crystal symmetries, and seasons. 

Change - Systems will undergo steady change, evolutionary change, cyclic change, or chaotic change. Different modes of change can occur simultaneously within a system. 

Scale - Any investigation of a system must define the appropriate scale of relevance. The scale is the range of magnitudes of the physical quantities of interest. For example, to understand and adequately describe the motion of a planet, it is not necessary to understand the motion of each molecule making up the planet. 

Equilibrium - Some systems are stable or resistant to change. Examples of steady state conditions are population equilibrium, homeostatic equilibrium, or chemical equilibrium. Systems may remain in equilibrium despite smaller influences but not larger ones. This illustrates the interrelationship between scale and equilibrium. 


The Principles of Science 

As natural science has evolved, a few basic principles have been discovered. Understanding these principles enables the scientist to unify and simplify an enormous and diverse amount of empirical evidence. The content standards are generated from the following principles: 

        • Matter and Energy
        • The Periodicity of Elements
        • Laws of Motion
        • Laws of Thermodynamics
        • The Cellular Nature of Life
        • The Hereditary and Evolutionary Nature of Life
        • Energy Flow in Living Systems
        • Cycling of Elements within the Earth
The purpose of K-12 science education is not only to convey the existing body of knowledge, but also to bring about a scientific understanding that recognizes the interconnections in the world of natural science. The scientifically literate individual will be able to function effectively in a world that is influenced by science and technology. 


Essentials for the Implementation of Excellent Science Education 

Successful science education must be supported in a variety of areas: 

Technology - Technology is an integral part of learning science. Scientists use a variety of technological tools to collect, organize, analyze, and communicate data. The advancement of science is correlated to the advancement of technology. 

Staff Development -Teachers must have theoretical and practical knowledge and capabilities in science content and science teaching. The dynamic nature of science requires a funded, coherent, ongoing systemic plan for staff development. Staff development activities must address evolving pedagogy and scientific content. 

Sufficient Preparation Time - Hands-on, laboratory science instruction requires sufficient time for teachers to plan activities, gather and organize supplies, and to set up and take down the lab activities. It is also crucial for teachers to have time to meet with other colleagues, including those from other departments, to ensure comprehensive, integrated, thorough science programs. 

Class Size for Laboratory Work - Every effort should be made to follow the National Science Standards guidelines for the number of students that can safely work in a lab setting. It is dangerous for students and teachers when class size exceeds these guidelines when working with laboratory equipment and chemicals. 

Community Support and Communication - The district needs to pursue and establish coordinated partnerships with community, corporate and university programs in order to extend scientific learning in the classroom. The district also needs to appraise these programs of developments in science education. 

Materials - Conducting scientific inquiry requires that students have equitable and frequent opportunities to use a wide range of equipment, supplies, and other materials needed for experimentation and direct observation of phenomena. Some equipment is general purpose and should be a part of every schoolís science inventory, such as magnifiers and microscopes or appropriate sophistication, measurement tools, tools for data analysis, and computers with software for supporting investigations. Other materials are topic specific, such as a water table for first graders or a reduced-resistance air table for physics investigations. Policy makers need to bear in mind that equipment needs to be upgraded frequently and requires preventive maintenance. 


1997/1998 Science Curriculum Council Members 

Jacy Berger Angevine Middle School 
Ron Haddad Centaurus High School 
Tamsen Meyer Boulder High School 
Bill Schmoker Centennial Middle School 
John Rundall Base Line Middle School 
Lynn Donnelly Boulder High School 
Robert Croft Broomfield Heights Middle School 
Mike Elings Louisville Middle School 
Patti Guilford Flatirons Elementary School 
Kate Schuchter Foothill Elementary School 
Steven Vanek Gold Hill Elementary School 
David Shinkle Louisville Elementary School 
Kenneth Nova Mapleton Elementary School 
Nancy Reynolds University Hill Elementary School 
Bill Hackman Fairview High School

1995/1996 Science Curriculum Council Members 

Dave Abbott- Horizons Alternative School 
Michael Altenbern- Broomfield High School 
Rob Anderson- Nederland Middle School 
Kelly Armitage- Superior Elementary School 
Jacy Berger- Angevine Middle School 
Betty Botts- Ryan Elementary School 
Sue Collard- Coal Creek Elementary School 
Stan Converse- Lafayette Elementary School 
Robert Croft- Broomfield Heights Middle School 
Paul Crosson- Pioneer Elementary School 
John Delmonico- FOSS 
Lynn Donnelly- Boulder High School 
Linda Doyle- Martin Park Elementary School 
Mike Elings- Louisville Middle School 
Anitta Frant- Casey Middle School 
Jim Freund- Horizons Alternative School 
Linda Garcia- Southern Hills Middle School 
Susan Garnand- Bear Creek Elementary School 
Terry Ginsberg- Majestic Heights Elementary School 
Kim Greene- Platt Middle School 
Matt Grigaitis- Nederland Middle School 
Jennie Grisham- Birch Elementary School 
Patti Guilford- Flatirons Elementary School 
Bill Hackman- Fairview High School 
Ron Haddad- Centaurus High School 
Gabrielle Hovinen- Nederland Elementary School 
Jan Kardatzke- Emerald Elementary School 
Larry Leatherman- Principal Representative 
Linda Leners- Kohl Elementary School 
Joan Lewis- Douglass Elementary School 
Bob Litsey- Eisenhower Elementary School 
Sue Lord- New Vista High School 
Cindy Loza- Aurora 7 Elementary School 
Cindy Margain- Washington Bilingual Elementary School 
Arlene Martin- Mesa Elementary School 
Laura Marts- Nederland High School 
Beverly Meier- Broomfield Heights Middle School 
Susanne Melbye- Fireside Elementary School 
Tamsen Meyer- Boulder High School 
Mardy Nelson- Platt Middle School 
Kenneth Nova- Mapleton Elementary School 
Chris Prior- Louisville Elementary School 
Lois Pritchard- Southern Hills Middle School 
Tina Ramp- Columbine Elementary School 
Nancy Reynolds- University Hill Elementary School 
Wendy Rochman- Mapleton Elementary School 
John Rundall- Base Line Middle School 
Carol Sandstrom- Crest View Elementary School 
Bill Schmoker- Centennial Middle School 
David Shinkle- Louisville Elementary School 
Kate Schuchter- Foothill Elementary School 
Sharon Sikora- Summit Middle School 
Mark Sparn- Principal Representative 
Dan Tomlin- Burbank Middle School 
Steven Vanek- Gold Hill Elementary School 
Lynne Waidler- Heatherwood Elementary School 
Scott Winston- Principal Representative 
Diane Witt- Sanchez Elementary School


Standards Focus Meeting Participants 

The following is the list of participants in the Science Focus Meeting for Standards review on 11/19/96: 


Jim Vacca, Special Education Representative, Teacher at Boulder High 
Marsha Carr, Language and Literacy Representative 



Jean Bonelli, Principal of Boulder High School 
Larry Leatherman, Principal of Emerald Elementary School 
Don Stensrud, Principal of Southern Hills Middle School 



Carolyn Borinski 
Vicki Jones 


Parent or Community Representative 

Thor Berg 
Mary Lou Carlson 
John Schauble 
Chuck Schiell 



Ron Haddad, Centaurus High School 
Beverly Meier, Broomfield Heights Middle School, Presidentís Award for Excellence in Science Teaching, Colorado Nominee 
Tamsen Meyer, Boulder High School, Senior High Council Leader, Coloradoís Outstanding Biology Teacher for 1996 
Bill Schmoker, Centennial Middle School, Middle Level Council Leader 
Kate Schucter, Foothill Elementary School, Elementary Council Leader 


University or Professional 

Ralph J. Alier, CU Health Sciences 
Margaret Asirvatrini, CU Boulder Chemistry and Biochemistry 
Ron Goldfarb, NIST 
Jenifer Helms, CU Education 
Nancy Holweger, CU Education 
Nancy Kellog, CONNECT 
Justin Laboe, CU Education 
Leonard Lewin, Retired Scientist 
Bob Mahler, CAS/CU 
Van Schoales, GSA 
Brad Siegal, City of Boulder Water Quality 
Veronica Vaida, CU Boulder Chemistry and Biochemistry 
Jeff Writer, Boulder Creek Watershed Initiative 

How BASIN Meets Education Standards

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