CONDUCTING SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY REQUIRES THAT STUDENTS HAVE EASY, EQUITABLE, AND FREQUENT OPPORTUNITIES TO USE A WIDE RANGE OF EQUIPMENT, MATERIALS, SUPPLIES, AND OTHER RESOURCES FOR EXPERIMENTATION AND DIRECT INVESTIGATION OF PHENOMENA. Some equipment is general purpose and should be part of every school's science inventory, such as magnifiers or microscopes of 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; such specialized materials also need to be made available. Many materials are consumable and need to be replenished regularly. Furthermore, policy makers need to bear in mind that equipment needs to be upgraded frequently and requires preventive maintenance.

Given that materials appropriate for inquiry-based science teaching are central to achieving the educational goals set forth in the Standards, it is critical that an effective infrastructure for material support be a part of any science program. School systems need to develop mechanisms to identify exemplary materials, store and maintain them, and make them accessible to teachers in a timely fashion. Providing an appropriate infrastructure frees teachers' time for more appropriate tasks and ensures that the necessary materials are available when needed. Because science inquiry is broader than first-hand investigation, print, video, and technology sources of information and simulation are also required. These are included in the materials-support infrastructure.

The teaching standards consistently make reference to the responsiveness and flexibility to student interests that must be evidenced in classrooms that reflect effective science teaching. The content standard on inquiry sets the expectation that students will develop the ability to perform a full inquiry. For such inquiry-based teaching to become a reality, in addition to what is regularly maintained in the school and district, every teacher of science needs an easily accessible budget for materials and equipment as well as for unanticipated expenses that arise as students and teachers pursue their work.

COLLABORATIVE INQUIRY REQUIRES ADEQUATE AND SAFE SPACE. There must be space for students to work together in groups, to engage safely in investigation with materials, and to display both work in progress and finished work. There also must be space for the safe and convenient storage of the materials needed for science. At the lower grade levels, schools do not need separate rooms for laboratories. In fact, it is an advantage in terms of long-term studies and making connections between school subject areas to have science as an integral part of the classroom environment. At the upper grade levels, laboratories become critical to provide the space, facilities, and equipment needed for inquiry and to ensure that the teacher and students can conduct investigations without risk. All spaces where students do inquiry must meet appropriate safety regulations.

GOOD SCIENCE PROGRAMS REQUIRE ACCESS TO THE WORLD BEYOND THE CLASSROOM. District and school leaders must allocate financial support to provide opportunities for students to investigate the

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement