Moffat County School District adopts new science curriculum

— Although his plans of becoming an astronaut never became reality, Roger Spears still finds ways of contributing to the field of science.

Spears, a Moffat County High School science teacher, was one of 200 finalists in the Educators in Space program in 2003. Although his eyesight prevented him from participating in the program, he continued to participate in scientific ventures with other teachers, one of which took him to study bacterial colonies in the Mojave Desert.

This year, he and other teachers in the Moffat County School District turned their attention to writing the district's new science curriculum.

What they developed was a "road map" that would lead the school district to meeting state standards while fostering critical thinking skills, said Norm Yoast, a science teacher at Craig Middle School.

Yoast was a member of a committee that developed the curriculum and presented it at the Moffat County School Board's monthly meeting Tuesday night.

School curricula are updated on a seven-year rotation, Spears said.

Earlier this year, the district approved the new science curriculum and purchased the required teaching materials. At its meeting Tuesday, the board moved to adopt the curriculum, thus finalizing it for distribution throughout the district.

At the middle school level, the new curriculum doesn't differ significantly from the previous one but re-assigns science disciplines to different grades, Yoast said. It also includes critical thinking and reasoning skills, which are required in the annual Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) test.

"About 40 percent of the CSAP science (test) is essays," Yoast said. "How to properly answer essay (questions) is reinforced in all science classes."

The curriculum also will teach science thinking skills to elementary school students.

Because CSAP tests in fifth grade focus on reasoning and inference skills, the curriculum is geared toward teaching students how to think scientifically instead of knowing "a minefield of scientific facts," said Rhonda Willingham, a teacher at Maybell Elementary School and a member of the curriculum committee.

The curriculum also provides consistent science vocabulary throughout elementary grades, she added.

The curriculum will be integrated into the district that, at the high school level, contains high levels of science class enrollment.

Spears said 85 percent of MCHS students are enrolled in third-year science classes, even though the school only requires two years of science courses.

At the meeting, board member Sandie Johns commended the high school science program.

"The growth of interest in science is obvious in the numbers," Johns said.

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