Up until the late 1960s, the dominant attendance pattern for early adolescent students (ages 11 - 14) was the junior high school, typically grouped in grades 7, 8 and 9. The first middle school opened in Bay City, Michigan in 1950. The middle schools didn't emerge on the American school scene until the 1960s, and then grew rapidly in the 70s and 80s. The middle schools dominate the educational organization of early adolescents today, and in most cases schools comprised of grades 6, 7, and 8 (some arrangements of middle schools also include 7 -8, or 7 -9).
As discussed earlier, the junior high school emerged in the period 1910 - 1920. For many years the science curriculum of the junior high school consisted of three years of general science. General science programs generally included units at each grade level in physics, chemistry, biology, geology, meteorology and astronomy.
In the 1960s, several curriculum reform projects were developed which influenced the junior high science curriculum. Because the junior high was the typical pattern in American school systems for the early adolescent, these reform projects were geared for junior high schools, not middle schools. Let's look very briefly at three of these projects. The three that I have chosen had a powerful impact on junior high science for many years, and have influenced textbook publishers' junior high science series from then until now.
Junior High Reform Projects
Although the projects I will describe were used in middle schools, the dominant organization was the junior high school when they were developed, field-tested and implemented into school systems in the United States. I'll discuss the middle school later in this section.
Introductory Physical Science (IPS). It was suggested that the typical junior high science course in the 1960s was general science in which students studied a variety of topics--chemistry, climate, geology, physics. A new course was proposed by developers at Educational Services Incorporated in Watertown, Massachusetts which represented a radical departure from the "general science" approach (see Figure 4.4). Instead, with funding from NSF, the developers created the Introductory Physical Science (IPS) course around a central theme. The theme was the development of evidence for an atomic model of matter. All the content in the IPS course was selected and organized to help students build the concept and then use the atomic model of matter to predict ideas about heat and molecular motion.
In the IPS course students performed many experiments (over 50). The experiments were integrated into the text (Figure 4.3), and were designed to involve the student in gathering data and testing hypotheses about the physical world.
The course was also built on the assumption that students would need to utilize the skills of inquiry to develop the main concept. The hands-on experiments developed such inquiry skills as observing, predicting, and analyzing data. Student obtained data was used to develop ideas about the matter and energy. The authors also believed that students will develop a better understanding of inquiry and science if they study a topic indepth, as opposed to skipping from one topic to another.
Another significant aspect of the IPS course (as well as with the other NSF reform programs) was the development of apparatus and materials kits that accompanied the IPS textbook. The course could not be studied without using the materials. In addition to the laboratory kits, the IPS curriculum also included laboratory notebooks and a teachers' guide.
Comparison of IPS to General Science
General Science Curriculum
Introductory Physical Science (IPS)
Unit 1. Water (suggested time six weeks)
2. Rocks and Soil (six weeks)
3. Air (seven weeks)
4. Fire (six weeks)
5. Trees (six weeks)
6. The Human Machine (five weeks)
1. Earth and Its Neighbors
2. Weather and Climate (five weeks)
3. Water, Its Effects and Its Uses
4. Gardening (seven weeks)
5. Safety and First Aid (nine weeks)
Grade 7, 8 or 9
Chapter 1. Introduction
2. Quantity of Matter
3. Characteristic Properties
4. Solubility and Solvents
5. The Separation of Substances
6. Compounds and Elements
8. The Atomic Model of Matter
9. Sizes and Masses of Atoms and
10. Molecular Motion
1. Environment (two weeks)
2. Air and Its Work (five weeks)
3. Water and Its Work (two weeks)
4. Heat and Its Work (two weeks)
5. Light, Its Use and Control (three
6. Study of Industry (four weeks)
7. Use and Control of Energy in
Transportation (two weeks)
8. Use of Food by the Human Body
9. Nervous System (three weeks)
10. Safeguarding and Improving
Life of Individual and
Community (five weeks)
Experiments (IPS contained over 50 experiments integrated into the chapters)
Distillation of Wood (chapter 1)
Measuring Volume by displacement of water (2)
The Density of Solids (3)
The Solubility of Ammonia Gas (4)
Paper Chromatography (5)
Flame Test of Some Elements (6)
The Effect of Some Substances on a Photographic Plate and on a Geiger Counter (7)
A Black Box (8)
The Size and Mass of an Oleic Acid Molecule (9)
Growing Small Crystals (10)
Heating Different Substances (11)
Earth Science Curriculum Project. The Earth Science Curriculum Project (ESCP) designed a course that was also a radical departure from the contemporary Earth science course, which was offered in either the eighth or ninth grade. At the time (1962), Earth science was not a major curriculum offering in the junior high school. States such as New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts had strong Earth science programs, and relied on textbooks that divided the earth science into geology, astronomy and meteorology. Oceanography was not a major topic in these early Earth science programs.
ESCP was developed by scientists (geologists, oceanographers, astronomers, meteorologists, paleontologists), high school teachers and science educators. The project produced a student textbook, teacher's guide, film series, field guides, and a specialized equipment package.
The ESCP approach to curriculum was designed to give students an understanding of earth processes, of the methods of science, and of what Earth scientists do. The ESCP approach emphasized inquiry, discovery and interpretation of student-obtained data. The laboratory activities, which originally during the field testing phases appeared in a separate laboratory manual, were integrated into the ESCP textbook, Investigating the Earth.
ESCP was organized around 10 overarching themes (behavioral, conceptual, and historical) as follows:
Science as inquiry
Comprehension of scale
Universality of change
Flow of energy in the universe
Adjustment to environmental
Conservation of mass and energy in the universe
Earth systems in space and time
Uniformity of process: a key to interpreting the past
Historical Development and presentation
A significant contribution of the ESCP course was the organization the content of the Earth sciences. Typically, content is organized into traditional subject matter divisions (geology, meteorology, oceanography, and astronomy). Instead the ESCP course was organized into four interdisciplinary units as follows:
Unit I. The Dynamic Earth
Chapters: The Changing Earth, Earth Materials, Earth Measurement, Earth Motions, Fields and Forces, Energy Flow.
Unit II. Earth Cycles
Chapters: Energy and Air Motions, Water in the Air, Waters of the Land, Water in Sea, Energy, Moisture and Climate, The Land Wears Away, Sediments and the Sea, Mountains from the Sea, Rocks Within Mountains, Interior of the Earth
Unit III. Earth's Biography
Chapters: Time and Its Measurement, The Record in Rocks, Life---Present and Past, Development of a Continent, Evolution of Landscapes
Unit IV. Earth's Environment in Space
Chapters: The Moon: a Natural Satellite, The Solar System, Stars as Other Suns, Stellar Evolution and Galaxies, The Universe and Its Origin
ESCP had a positive effect on the teaching of Earth science in the United States. Interest in the Earth sciences increased during the sixties and seventies, and as a result Earth science is an integral part of the middle school curriculum today.
The ESCP test is still used, although, not as widely as it was in the 70s. Districts that do use the ESCP text use it in accelerated programs with high ability students. The most recent edition of the text (1989) has incorporated recent developments in the Earth sciences, but has reflected a more traditional organization of content. The text has, however, preserved the emphasis on student inquiry and analysis of student obtained data.
Studies done on new earth science curricula, including ESCP showed positive results in the effect of these curricula on process and analytic skills. Although not many studies were completed, the new earth science curricula were they only reform projects that did not show a positive achievement result.
Intermediate Science Curriculum Study (ISCS). Developed at Florida State University, ISCS was a three-year individualized science curriculum project for grades 7, 8 and 9. ISCS was designed to help junior high students develop an understanding of physical and biological principles of science, an understanding of science and the scientific process, and to develop the ability to use the processes of science.
The ISCS program was an individualized curriculum. The text materials were written to guide the student along at his or her own pace. In practice, most teachers organized the students into small teams, and the team moved along at its own pace. The students are led through the materials by being actively involved in hands-on experiments, answering questions posed in the text materials, and solving problems.
Student material is organized into core chapters and excursion activities . Students are instructed to proceed through the text completing activities and answering questions (in a separate science record book). Excursions are special activities referenced in the core chapters, and found in the back of the book. Theoretically, the student was invited to stop and do the excursion if it looked interesting, or if it would help with the current chapter. In practice teachers usually helped the students by suggesting which excursions were required and which were optional. The ISCS program offered junior high school a complete three-year science curriculum.
Figure 4.8 ISCS Curriculum
Grade 7: Probing the Natural World (Volume 1
This grade focused on the development of the concept of energy and development of an operational definition of energy. The focus was on physics
Grade 8: Probing the Natural World (Volume 2
This grade focused on chemistry and students developed a particulate model for the nature of matter.
Grade 9: Eight Separate Books on the following Topics:
Why You're You (genetics)
Environmental Problems (environmental science)
In Orbit (space science)
What's Up? (astronomy)
Crusty Problems (geology)
Winds and Weather (meteorology)
Well-Being (health science)
These programs, and other NSF curriculum projected aimed at the junior high school influenced the nature of the curriculum for early adolescent students. The NSF reform projects tended to be discipline oriented (e.g. physics, physical science, earth science), whereas the typical junior high science program was three years of general science. By the late seventies, general science was still the typical curriculum sequence (in 70% of the schools), with life science (21 percent), earth science (20 percent) and physical science (13 percent). By 1986, the pattern was more evenly distributed across the content areas with about 30 percent biology and life science, 22 percent earth science, 22 general science, and 21 physical science.
The results of studies that compared the effects of new junior high science curricula on student performance versus traditional science programs tended to favor the new science programs. Physical science curricula produced positive effects on student performance in achievement and perceptions (of science). Overall, the junior high programs produced positive effects in achievement (although not in each curriculum case), perceptions, and process skills. These programs did not do as well in analytic and related skills areas, however.