Secondary schools for the twenty-first century

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This document replaces The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 11 and 12: Science, 2000. Beginning in September 2009, all science programs for Grades 11 and 12 will be based on the expectations outlined in this document.
The goal of Ontario secondary schools is to support high-quality learning while giving individual students the opportunity to choose programs that suit their skills and interests. The updated Ontario curriculum, in combination with a broader range of learning options outside traditional classroom instruction, will enable students to better customize their high school education and improve their prospects for success in school and in life.
During the twentieth century, science played an increasingly important role in the lives of all Canadians. It underpins much of what we now take for granted, from life-saving pharmaceuticals to clean water, the places we live and work in, computers and other information technologies, and how we communicate with others. The impact of science on our lives will continue to grow as the twenty-first century unfolds. Consequently, scientific literacy for all has become a goal of science education throughout the world and has been given expression in Canada in the Common Framework of Science Learning Outcomes, K to 12: Pan-Canadian Protocol for Collaboration on School Curriculum (Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, 1997). Scientific literacy can be defined as possession of the scientific knowledge, skills, and habits of mind required to thrive in the science-based world of the twenty-first century.
A scientifically and technologically literate person is one who can read and understand common media reports about science and technology, critically evaluate the information presented, and confidently engage in discussions and decision-making activities regarding issues that involve science and technology.

Science Co-ordinators' and Consultants' Association of Ontario (SCCAO) and Science Teachers' Association of Ontario (STAO/APSO),"Position Paper: The Nature of Science" (2006), p. 1

Achieving a high level of scientific literacy is not the same as becoming a scientist. The notion of thriving in a science-based world applies as much to a small-business person, a lawyer, a construction worker, a car mechanic, or a travel agent as it does to a doctor, an engineer, or a research scientist. While the specific knowledge and skills required for each of these occupations vary, the basic goal of thriving in a science-based world remains the same. Science courses have been designed for a wide variety of students, taking into account their interests and possible postsecondary destinations. Some courses have been designed to serve as preparation for specialist studies in science-related fields; others have been designed for students intending to go on to postsecondary education but not to study science; yet others have been designed with the needs of the workplace in mind. The overall intention is that all graduates of Ontario secondary schools will achieve excellence and a high degree of scientific literacy while maintaining a sense of wonder about the world around them. Accordingly, the curriculum reflects new developments on the international science scene and is intended to position science education in Ontario at the forefront of science education around the world.
Achievement of both excellence and equity underlies the three major goals of the secondary science program. The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 11 and 12: Science, 2008 therefore outlines not only the skills and knowledge that students are expected to develop but also the attitudes that they will need to develop in order to use their knowledge and skills responsibly. The three goals of the science program are as follows:
1. to relate science to technology, society, and the environment
2. to develop the skills, strategies, and habits of mind required for scientific inquiry
3. to understand the basic concepts of science
Every course in the secondary science program focuses on these three goals. The goals are reflected within each strand of every course in the three overall expectations, which in turn are developed in corresponding sets of related specific expectations. The same three goals also underlie assessment of student achievement in science.
The primary goal of science is to understand the natural and human-designed worlds. Science refers to certain processes used by humans for obtaining knowledge about nature, and to an organized body of knowledge about nature obtained by these processes. Science is a dynamic and creative activity with a long and interesting history. Many societies have contributed to the development of scientific knowledge and understanding. ...Scientists continuously assess and judge the soundness of scientific knowledge claims by testing laws and theories, and modifying them in light of compelling new evidence or a re-conceptualization of existing evidence.

SCCAO and STAO/APSO, "Position Paper: The Nature of Science" (2006), pp. 1-2

Science is a way of knowing that seeks to describe and explain the natural and physical world. An important part of scientific literacy is an understanding of the nature of science, which includes an understanding of the following:
• what scientists, engineers, and technologists do as individuals and as a community
• how scientific knowledge is generated and validated, and what benefits, costs, and risks are involved in using this knowledge
• how science interacts with technology, society, and the environment
Occasionally, theories and concepts undergo change, but for the most part, the fundamental concepts of science - to do with phenomena such as the cellular basis of life, the laws of energy, the particle theory of matter - have proved stable.
Fundamental Concepts
Change the focus of the curriculum and instruction from teaching topics to "using" topics to teach and assess deeper, conceptual understanding.

Lynn Erickson, Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction (2006), p. 7

Fundamental concepts are concepts about phenomena that have not changed fundamentally over time and that are common for all cultures. The fundamental concepts in science provide a framework for the deeper understanding of all scientific knowledge - a structure that facilitates integrated thinking as students draw from the knowledge base of science and see patterns and connections within the subdisciplines of science, and between science and other disciplines. The fundamental concepts addressed in the curricula for science and technology in Grades 1 to 8 and for science in Grades 9 to 12 are similar to concepts found in science curricula around the world.
As students progress through the curriculum from Grades 1 to 12, they extend and deepen their understanding of these fundamental concepts and learn to apply their understanding with increasing sophistication. The fundamental concepts are listed and described in the following chart.
Matter Matter is anything that has mass and occupies space. Matter has particular structural and behavioural characteristics.
Energy Energy comes in many forms, and can change forms. It is required to make things happen (to do work). Work is done when a force causes movement.
Systems and Interactions A system is a collection of living and/or non-living things and processes that interact to perform some function. A system includes inputs, outputs, and relationships among system components. Natural and human systems develop in response to, and are limited by, a variety of environmental factors.
Structure and Function This concept focuses on the interrelationship between the function or use of a natural or human-made object and the form that the object takes.
Sustainability and Stewardship Sustainability is the concept of meeting the needs of the present with-out compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
Stewardship involves understanding that we need to use and care for the natural environment in a responsible way and making the effort to pass on to future generations no less than what we have access to ourselves. Values that are central to responsible stewardship are: using non- renewable resources with care; reusing and recycling what we can; switching to renewable resources where possible.
Change and Continuity Change is the process of becoming different over time, and can be quantified.

Continuity represents consistency and connectedness within and among systems over time. Interactions within and among systems result in change and variations in consistency.

"Big Ideas"
Big ideas "go beyond discrete facts or skills to focus on larger concepts, principles, or processes."

Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, Understanding by Design (1998), p. 10

"Big ideas" are the broad, important understandings that students should retain long after they have forgotten many of the details of what they have studied in the classroom. They are the understandings that contribute to scientific literacy. The big ideas that students can take away from each course in this curriculum relate to some aspect of the fundamental concepts described in the preceding section. A list of the big ideas students need to understand appears at the start of every course in this document.
Developing a deeper understanding of the big ideas requires students to understand basic concepts, develop inquiry and problem-solving skills, and connect these concepts and skills to the world beyond the classroom. Teachers can help students gain such understanding by connecting learning based on the overall and specific expectations and the criteria in the achievement chart to the big ideas that relate to each course.
The relationship between the fundamental concepts, big ideas, the goals of the science program, and the overall and specific expectations is outlined in the chart that follows.
["Big Ideas" Chart omitted, page 6]
Students have many responsibilities with regard to their learning, and these increase as they advance through secondary school. Students who are willing to make the effort required and who are able to monitor their thinking and learning strategies and apply themselves will soon discover that there is a direct relationship between this effort and their achievement, and will therefore be more motivated to work. Students who develop mental attitudes and ways of behaving that contribute to success in life will benefit as learners.
Successful mastery of scientific concepts and investigation skills requires students to have a sincere commitment to work and to the development of appropriate learning skills. Furthermore, students should actively pursue opportunities outside the classroom to extend and enrich their scientific understanding and skills. For example, students can make an effort to keep up with current events related to local, national, and international scientific discoveries and innovations.
Studies show that students perform better in school if their parents1 are involved in their education. Parents who are familiar with the curriculum expectations know what is being taught in the courses their children are taking and what their children are expected to learn. This awareness enhances parents' ability to discuss school work with their children, to communicate with teachers, and to ask relevant questions about their children's progress. Knowledge of the expectations in the various courses also helps parents to interpret teachers' comments on student progress and to work with teachers to improve their children's learning.
Effective ways in which parents can support their children's learning include the following: attending parent-teacher interviews, participating in parent workshops and school council activities (including becoming a school council member), and encouraging their children to complete their assignments at home.
The science curriculum has the potential to stimulate interest in lifelong learning not only for students but also for their parents and all those with an interest in education. In addition to supporting regular school activities, parents may want to take an active interest in current events and issues in the field of science, and to provide their children with opportunities to question and reflect on the impact of these developments on their immediate lives, the environment, and society. Parents can also provide valuable support by encouraging children to take part in activities that develop responsible citizenship (such as participating in an environmental clean-up program in their neighbourhood) or that further their interest in science (such as volunteering at local science centres or children's museums).
Throughout the secondary science program, students will have opportunities to interact with living things and to work with a variety of equipment and materials. To help ensure students' safety, parents should inform teachers of any allergies that their children may have. Parents should also encourage their children to arrive at school prepared to participate safely in activities. Simple precautions such as wearing closed-toe shoes, tying back long hair, and removing loose jewellery (or taping it down in the case of Medic Alert bracelets) contribute to a safe environment when working within science classrooms.
Teachers are responsible for developing appropriate instructional strategies to help students achieve the curriculum expectations, as well as appropriate methods for assessing and evaluating student learning. Teachers bring enthusiasm and varied teaching and assessment approaches to the classroom, addressing individual students' needs and ensuring sound learning opportunities for every student.
Using a variety of instructional, assessment, and evaluation strategies, teachers provide numerous hands-on opportunities for students to develop and refine their investigation skills, including their problem-solving skills, critical and creative thinking skills, and communication skills, while discovering fundamental concepts through inquiry, exploration, observation, and research. The activities offered should enable students to relate and apply these concepts to the social, environmental, and economic conditions and concerns of the world in which they live. Opportunities to relate knowledge and skills to these wider contexts will motivate students to learn in a meaningful way and to become lifelong learners.
Teachers need to help students understand that problem solving of any kind often requires a considerable expenditure of time and energy and a good deal of perseverance. Teachers also need to encourage students to investigate, to reason, to explore alternative solutions, and to take the risks necessary to become successful problem solvers.
Science can play a key role in shaping students' views about life and learning. Science exists in a broader social and economic context. It is affected by the values and choices of individuals, businesses, and governments and, in turn, has a significant impact on society and the environment. Teachers must provide opportunities for students to develop habits of mind appropriate for meaningful work in science, including a commitment to accuracy, precision, and integrity in observation; respect for evidence; adherence to safety procedures; and respect for living things and the environment.
Teachers are also responsible for ensuring the safety of students during classroom activities and for encouraging and motivating students to assume responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others. They must also ensure that students acquire the knowledge and skills needed for safe participation in science activities.
The principal works in partnership with teachers and parents to ensure that each student has access to the best possible educational experience. The principal is also a community builder who creates an environment that is welcoming to all, and who ensures that all members of the school community are kept well informed.
To support student learning, principals ensure that the Ontario curriculum is being properly implemented in all classrooms through the use of a variety of instructional approaches and that appropriate resources are made available for teachers and students. To enhance teaching and student learning in all subjects, including science, principals promote learning teams and work with teachers to facilitate teacher participation in professional development activities. Principals are responsible for ensuring that every student who has an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is receiving the modifications and/or accommodations described in his or her plan - in other words, that the IEP is properly developed, implemented, and monitored.
Community Partners
Community partners in areas related to science can be an important resource for schools and students. They can provide support for students in the classroom and can be models of how the knowledge and skills acquired through the study of the curriculum relate to life beyond school. As mentors, they can enrich not only the educational experience of students but also the life of the community. For example, schools can make use of community groups that recruit practising scientists (e.g., engineers, optometrists, veterinarians, geologists, lab technicians) to provide in-class workshops for students that are based on topics, concepts, and skills from the curriculum.
Schools and school boards can play a role by coordinating efforts with community partners. They can involve community volunteers in supporting science instruction and in promoting a focus on scientific literacy in and outside the school. Community partners can be included in events held in the school (such as parent education nights and science fairs), and school boards can collaborate with leaders of existing community science programs for students, including programs offered in community centres, libraries, and local museums and science centres.
The overall aim of the secondary science program is to ensure scientific literacy for every secondary school graduate. To better achieve this aim, all courses in the program are designed to focus on science not only as an intellectual pursuit but also as an activity-based enterprise within a social context.
The senior science courses build on the Grade 9 and 10 science program, incorporating the same goals of science and fundamental concepts on which that program was based. Both programs are founded on the premise that students learn science most effectively when they are active participants in their own learning. Such participation is achieved when science concepts and procedures are introduced through an investigative approach and are connected to students' prior knowledge in meaningful ways. The Grade 11 and 12 science curriculum is designed to help students prepare for university, college, or the workplace by building a solid conceptual and procedural foundation in science that enables them to apply their knowledge and skills in a variety of ways and successfully further their learning.
An important component of every course in the science program is the development of students' ability to relate science to technology, society, and the environment. Students are encouraged to apply their understanding of science to real-world situations in these areas and to develop knowledge, skills, and attitudes that they will take with them beyond the science classroom.
The Grade 11 and 12 science program is designed to help students become scientifically literate. One aspect of scientific literacy is the ability to recognize, interpret, and produce representations of scientific information in forms ranging from written and oral reports, drawings and diagrams, and graphs and tables of values to equations, physical models, and computer simulations. As students' scientific knowledge and skills develop through the grades, they will become conversant with increasingly sophisticated forms and representations of scientific information.
The senior science curriculum also builds on students' experience with a variety of the sophisticated yet easy-to-use computer applications and simulations that are so prevalent in today's world. The curriculum integrates these technologies into the learning and doing of science in ways that help students develop investigation skills, extend their understanding of scientific concepts, enable them to solve meaningful problems, and familiarize them with technologies that can be applied in various other areas of endeavour. In this curriculum, technology does not replace skills acquisition; rather, it is treated as a learning tool that helps students explore concepts and hone skills.
A balanced science program must include varied opportunities for students to practise and enhance their scientific investigations skills. Like the Grade 9 and 10 science courses, the senior secondary curriculum focuses on refining specific skills that best enable students to develop their understanding of scientific concepts and acquire related knowledge.
Courses in Grades 11 and 12
Four types of courses are offered in the Grade 11 and 12 science program: university preparation, university/college preparation, college preparation, and workplace preparation courses. Students choose between course types on the basis of their interests, achievement, and postsecondary goals.
The course types offered in Grades 11 and 12 are defined as follows:
University preparation courses are designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to meet the entrance requirements for university programs.
University/college preparation courses are designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to meet the entrance requirements for specific programs offered at universities and colleges.
College preparation courses are designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to meet the requirements for entrance to most college programs or for admission to specific apprenticeship or other training programs.
Workplace preparation courses are designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to meet the expectations of employers, if they plan to enter the workplace directly after graduation, or the requirements for admission to many apprenticeship or other training programs.
A table showing all Grade 11 and 12 science courses is given on page 12, and the prerequisite chart for all Grade 9-12 science courses appears on page 13.
Courses in Science, Grades 11 and 12
Grade Course Name Course Type Course Code Prerequisite
11 Biology University SBI3U Grade 10 Science, Academic

11 Biology College SBI3C Grade 10 Science, Academic or Applied

12 Biology University SBI4U Grade 11 Biology, University
11 Chemistry University SCH3U Grade 10 Science, Academic

12 Chemistry University SCH4U Grade 11 Chemistry, University

12 Chemistry College SCH4C Grade 10 Science, Academic or Applied
Earth and Space Science
12 Earth and Space Science University SES4U Grade 10 Science, Academic
Environmental Science
11 Environmental Science University/ College SVN3M Grade 10 Science, Academic or Applied
11 Environmental Science Workplace SVN3E Grade 9 Science, Academic or Applied, or a Grade 9 or Grade 10 LDCC*
11 Physics University SPH3U Grade 10 Science, Academic

12 Physics University SPH4U Grade 11 Physics, University

12 Physics College SPH4C Grade 10 Science, Academic or Applied
12 Science University/ College SNC4M Grade 10 Science, Academic, or any Grade 11 university, university/college, or college preparation course in the science curriculum

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