SFUSD Strengthens Science Education to Adapt to Distance Learning

SFUSD Strengthens Science Education to Adapt to Distance Learning

Press Release

Over 1,000 elementary students participate in virtual Q&A event featuring the State Wolf Scientist

San Francisco (February 19, 2021) - As the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) continues to prepare for a safe return to in-person learning for focal student populations, SFUSD also continues to improve distance learning instruction. Science teachers in grades PK-12 are creating interactive experiences for students learning remotely through multimedia, simulations, recorded demos of lab experiments, and guest speakers. 

On Friday, February 19, over 1,000 elementary students will be part of a virtual Q&A event presented by the District’s Science team featuring Kent Laudon, the State Wolf Scientist, a Specialist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife who studies the Lassen wolf pack. The event specifically supports third graders’ studies in the Inheritance and Traits unit where they are learning about the Lassen wolf pack, the only wolf pack in California. 

At the elementary level, the Science team is supporting teachers by providing weekly inquiry-based lessons for teachers in K-5. The Amplify curriculum is adapted by the team with local connections and culturally relevant, real-world examples to support students' connections to the science all around us.

In addition, the department’s Environmental Science Center naturalists’ Neighborhood Nature series and Elementary Content Specialists support SFUSD’s original educational TV show SF Loves Learning to integrate science into the daily television content and add Seesaw activities. 

In the secondary grades, Content Specialists have curated resources for teachers to engage students in project-based learning (PBL) and inquiry. Teachers in all SFUSD 6-12 grade schools use a 5E instructional model (the five Es are: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate) within the SFUSD Core Curriculum for stages of learning. In distance learning, the science projects are modified by teachers from the in-person curriculum with simulations and some demonstrations of recorded laboratory experiments from the teachers’ homes. The instructional emphasis remains on providing students with real-world phenomena and connecting the learning to the real scientific problems in the world. 

For instance, SFUSD high school Biology teachers are using microscope cameras for students to see in real time what happens when aquatic plant cells are flushed with salt water (hypertonic solution), demonstrating the movement of materials across cell membranes. They have also set up student-suggested investigations in their remote classrooms to demonstrate when model cells are placed in different environments. Students use a laboratory simulation where they get to extract DNA from cells. They then collaboratively analyze photographs from different samples to determine if DNA is a characteristic of all living things. Yesterday, astronomy students watched the Mars Rover touchdown in real time.

SFUSD is committed to a district-wide implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) through a core curriculum that positively impacts science learning for all students. The NGSS call for a shift in the way that science is taught, with an increased focus on the doing of science and engineering through making sense of rich phenomena and solving real-world problems. Students are led to build mastery and personalize their learning in their approaches to real-life tasks.

The SFUSD Science Core Curriculum continues to evolve as teacher and student feedback has been incorporated starting with the initial field tests and continuing through its introduction into science classrooms throughout SFUSD. Teacher and student feedback will continue to be sought out to improve the instructional materials through ongoing revisions.