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What’s Happening in Science Education

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Keeping Up with Science. Artist Shari Weisberg. Federal Art Project, WPA, 1936-1939

Have you ever wondered, “is it really possible to fry an egg on the sidewalk if it is hot enough?” or “why do pigeons bob their heads when they walk?” Answers to these and many other science questions can be found on the Library of Congress website Everyday Mysteries: Fun Science Facts from the Science Reference Section.

This website brings educators, librarians, parents, and students in touch with the wealth of science resources and expertise at the Library. The Everyday Mysteries website can also be used as a model to help educators introduce their students to scientific research and inquiry. In fact, the Everyday Mysteries website supports the 2012 National Research Council’s (NRC) Framework for K-12 Science Education:  “the learning experiences provided for students should engage them with fundamental questions about the world and how scientists have investigated and found answers to those questions” (p. 8-9). The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is based on the NRC’s Framework which provides details of key scientific concepts that all students should learn by the time they graduate from high school. NGSS strengthens the idea that “K-12 science education should reflect the interconnected nature of science as it is practiced and experienced in the real world” (Appendix A- Conceptual Shifts in the NGSS).

The Library’s collections- from the papers of the Wright Brothers, to the papers of Alexander Graham Bell; and from the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) and Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) to Mapping the National Parks – can serve as inspiration for students to become the next  Rachel Carson, Charles Darwin, Steve Jobs, or Frank Lloyd Wright. Likewise these collections can also promote engagement with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) content. STEM is a vital component to innovation, commerce, and a scientifically literate population.  The Library’s resources and programs foster the use of STEM content and the current standard movements such as NGSS and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The CCSS places value on primary source analysis, and the CCSS’s inclusion of both informational texts and literature are without a doubt inline with the Library’s collections and programs (check out the Library of Congress Magazine (LCM) 2013 Back to School issue). Working in tandem, the CCSS, with a focus on literacy, supplements the NGSS that has a focus on the practice of science.

Owl above door to Science and Business reading room on fifth floor. Library of Congress John Adams Building, Washington, D.C. Photograph by Carol Highsmith, 2007

It is our aim to encourage active engagement with the Library’s STEM content and connect educators with resources that support current standards. Reference specialists assist students and educators on an individual basis—and occasionally an entire classroom at once—and at all levels of the educational ladder, from science fair projects to advanced research. For example, this summer we published Science Education in the 21st century which lists a selection of resources to advance science literacy. We also help cultivate STEM education by creating specific guides on topics for teachers, parents, and students, such as the following:

Research can be a complicated process and knowing the challenges that students (and parents) sometimes face when conducting research for a school project, the Science Reference Section’s web pages offer a variety of tools to help guide the researcher to reliable resources, both online and in print. Science subject guides cover most areas of scientific inquiry, such as those that focus on science fair projects, and more specialized guides, such as Endangered and Threatened Species and Global Warming and Climate Change, which assist the student in conducting research within and beyond the Library of Congress.  

The Science Reference Section is ready to help with a school project, an educator preparing for a class assignment, or parents seeking ways to get their kids interested in science. You can contact the Science Reference Service via the Library’s Ask a Librarian service. The guides we have mentioned above are also available in print, so if you’d like a print copy, just ask. Do not hesitate to contact us; we are here to lend a helping hand.

Also available to help are the Library’s education specialists- check out their Teachers page for classroom materials and professional development resources.


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