What is Science Matters?

In June 2011, a team of Science Matters Teacher Leaders from Carpinteria and Santa Barbara, working in conjunction with expert science curriculum consultants from the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, completed Unit I of a series of standards-based instructional units for Grades 4, 5, and 6 in Earth, Life and Physical Science.   Unit II was completed in May of 2012, and Unit III will be completed in April of 2013.  These units are aligned with content learned in the Science Matters Institutes, and are designed to increase the effectiveness of science instruction – using any adopted curricula and other resources available to teachers.

The process for unit development was based on the key findings from How People Learn – Bridging Research and Practice (Donovan, Bransford and Pellegrino, Eds., 1999) and included the construction of a Conceptual Flow of science concepts, indicating how science ideas are nested and linked to each other.  The Conceptual Flow also acts as a sequence for instruction, so that lessons are linked to student understanding from the previous lesson.  University faculty reviewed the flows for scientific accuracy.

To develop these units, the team of teacher leaders used the flows to organize lessons and ideas gleaned from Science Matters institutes – a series of professional development workshops funded by a three-year CaMSP grant and local private foundations during the 2007-2010 academic years.  Teachers used the 5-E Lesson Design (The BSCS 5E Instructional Model:  Origins, Effectiveness, and Applications, Bybee, et al, 2006) to create student-centered inquiry-based lessons.  All lessons were field-tested by the writing team, as well as by other teachers at their sites.  Revisions to the pedagogy of each lesson were based on comments from the field tests.  The consultants conducted a final review of the lesson units to ensure coherence and accuracy.

In addition to the lessons, the teams developed an assessment system for each unit.  There is a pre- and post-assessment as well as formative assessments at critical junctures, to measure student understanding throughout each unit of instruction.  These assessments were also field tested and revised based on the field comments, and were reviewed by the consultants.

Teacher Leaders:

4th grade:

  • Lauri Dahlin (Peabody School) –  ldahlin@peabodycharter.org
  • Hortencia Garcia (Roosevelt School) –  hortenciagarcia@gmail.com
  • Christina Mavaro (McKinley School) – cmavaro@sbsdk12.org
  • Kathleen Tomscha (Canalino School) –  ktomscha@cusd.net

5th grade:

  • Christine Lindblad (Peabody School) –  clindblad@peabodycharter.org
  • Claire Poissonniez (Peabody School) –  cpoissonniez@peabodycharter.org
  • Vanessa Scarlett (Montecito Union) –  vscarlett8@yahoo.com
  • Lani Gregory-Browne (Roosevelt School)
  • Brendan Carroll (Franklin School)
  • Jamie Persoon (Canalino School)

6th grade:

  • Summer Bray (Harding School) –  sbray@cusd.net
  • Meagan Callahan (Peabody School) –  meagcal@gmail.com
  • Kim Castagna (Carpinteria Middle School) –  kcastagna@cusd.net
  • Jennifer Foster (Carpinteria Middle School) –  jfoster@cusd.net
  • Jean Rogers-O’Reilly (Cleveland School)
  • Tracy Schifferns (McKinley School) –  tschifferns@sbsdk12.org

Consultants:  K-12 Alliance/WestEd

  • Kathy DiRanna
  • Jo Topps
  • Karen Cerwin
  1. Austin Kirk Reply

    I just found your site after struggling with science for about 3 months. This is absolutely amazing. Thank you so much. The assessments show a number of different indicators of students understanding and the material allows students to really engage with the concepts. It is also so easy to use as a teacher. Wow. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  2. Rachael Wilber Reply

    Thank you! It’s so nice to come across quality units like these! Very helpful.

  3. Marianne Butzler Reply

    High quality and easy to use! I do think some kind of teacher guide or additional teacher background would be helpful. Brush up on some of these topics before hand so we can be as prepared as we can be. So nice to have this resource available for free. With the advent of Teachers pay teachers, free and high quality is getting harder to come by. Thanks again!

  4. Amy Wigle Reply

    I can”t begin to thank you for your work in planning these units. I teach 4th grade and just came across the Ecosystems untit. I’ve only taught one lesson so far and my students were so engaged. I love that you have expllicitly implement in the lessons, pal pair, group work, and exploration, putting the cognitive load on students. I teach all subjects, as many elementary teachers do, and it is difficult to have time to plan units and fun lessons like you have so generously made available to teachers.

  5. Bailey Summers Reply

    I also found this after struggling with science and a curriculum to use for my backward design plans. Thank you!!

  6. Amanda Reply

    This is absolutely amazing. Thank you all so much for making these freely available to educators online. I’ve been looking for quality resources, and so far nothing holds a candle to this. Thanks again for supporting science teachers everywhere!

  7. Jacquie Carter Reply

    where do I find the materials labeled R?

    • sbsciencematters Reply

      Please give more information to where the materials labeled “R” is. What exact PDF and page are you referring to? Thanks.

  8. Rebecca Reply

    So happy I stumbled upon this gem of a website. These student-centered lessons are perfect for my 5/6 combo.

  9. Grace Dankyau Reply

    I had a wonderful time teaching 4th Grade science with your excellent resources. Next year, I would be teaching 3rd Grade. What ever am I going to do without Science Matters?

  10. Lisa Reply

    I deeply thank you for the time and effort that obviously went into the development of these lessons. I am finding them invaluable!

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