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Review of Middle School Physical Science Texts (FINAL!)

[Colleagues, if you know a middle school science teacher, I encourage you
to give this to that person. - Jane Jackson]

Final Report: The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
Grant #1998-4248
The full report (about 100 pages) is at

John L. Hubisz, Ph.D.,, (919)515-2515

I. As soon as you know what text has been chosen for you, form a network
with several other teachers of the same course in your area and make
contact with a nearby expert in physics or chemistry or geology or biology.
E-mail is a great medium for informal discussion and as a means of getting
quick answers to questions. Search the web for relevant sites, especially
the publisher's site. It may not be up-to-date, but it could be helpful.

II. If you haven't taken discipline-based courses in a subject area, say
physics, contact the American Association of Physics Teachers (each subject
area has a national organization that can direct you to local affiliates)
and find out how they can help you. The AAPT publishes POWERFUL IDEAS IN
PHYSICAL SCIENCE that contains some excellent material in the "less is
more" format that you can immediately introduce in your class after you
have worked your way through. Each unit begins with a list of common
misconceptions that students (and adults!) have about that particular area
of physics. Get your network to put together a bibliography of sources
found useful in their teaching.

III. Ginn and Company published the Ginn Science Program elementary school
in 1973 by Isaac Asimov and Roy A. Gallant. If you can find copies (many
volumes), get them! Clifford E. Swartz, then Director of the National
Science Foundation Workshop on Elementary School Science by a Quantitative
Approach, wrote the three volume Measure and Find Out: A Quantitative
Approach to Science published by Scott, Foresman and Company in 1969.
These books have what is missing from most of the books reviewed in this
report. Holt, Rinehart and Winston published PROJECT PHYSICS in 1970 for
9th grade, but if you have never studied physics before, this is excellent
and the teacher 's guides and readers will help you learn material directly
applicable to your classroom. The National Science Foundation spent
millions of dollars on several programs designed for the elementary schools
in the 1960s. All this material is now contained with references to the
National Science Education Standards on a CD from The Learning Team, called
"The Enhanced Science Helper". The 2nd edition of Essentials of Elementary
Science by Dobey, Beichner, and Raimondi is available in paperback from
Allyn and Bacon. The Best of WonderScience from Delmar Publishers by way
of the American Chemical Society has over 400 hands-on elementary science
activities. Science Experiences for the Early Childhood Years 2nd edition
by Jean Harlan and published by Merrill gets good marks from several
elementary school teachers for the very early grades.

IV. Subscribe to "The Textbook Letter" at

V. Take advantage of workshops appropriate to your course offered by the
various discipline based societies - they are the next best bet to taking a

VI. Contact John L. Hubisz at for further information.

[In the next section, omitted here, are 8 suggestions for authors and

You see the task is not an easy one. Some of these notes are "tongue in
cheek." But note that good materials are out there and have been tested,
but it is more than just being available. We have got to be more active in
our schools so as to bring these materials to the attention of the teachers
and administrators if they are going to be used. We also have to point out
that the available textbooks are impossible tools to effect a change.

If I (JLH) were a principal having to make a decision about what textbooks
to make available for my Middle School students, I would first realize that
I must choose a book. The training of most Middle School teachers is
simply not sufficient to trust that they can teach a course at this level
without a text. Our limited look at teacher-generated materials convinces
us that such efforts result in very bad material. Experience shows that
some students will gain a lot from the text by themselves. My directive to
my teachers would be to encourage or require that they forge links with
other teachers in the same situation as well as experts in the field to be
kept aware of problems and mistakes in the text, as well as to help each
other over the rough spots. Publishers have already begun to respond to
our criticisms and those of others by placing known errors on their web
pages. We have many more to add and will be setting up a web page as a
continuation of this project.

Jane Jackson, Co-Director, Modeling Instruction Program
Box 871504, Dept.of Physics & Astronomy,ASU,Tempe,AZ 85287
480-965-8438/fax:965-7331 <>