Bridging Research into Practice

The FOSS Program is built on the assumptions that understanding core scientific knowledge and how science functions is essential for citizenship, that all teachers can teach science, and all students can learn science. The guiding principles of the FOSS design, described below, are derived from research and confirmed through FOSS developers' extensive experience in classrooms with teachers and students in typical American classrooms.

Understanding of science develops over time.

FOSS has elaborated learning progressions for core ideas in science for kindergarten through grade 6. Developing the learning progressions involves identifying successively more sophisticated ways of thinking about core ideas over multiple years. "If mastery of a core idea in a science discipline is the ultimate educational destination, then well-designed learning progressions provide a map of the routes that can be taken to reach that destination" (National Research Council, A Framework for Science Education, 2012).

Focusing on a limited number of topics in science avoids shallow coverage and provides more time to explore core science ideas in depth.

Focus Topics

Research emphasizes that fewer topics experienced in greater depth produces much better learning than many topics briefly visited. FOSS affirms this research. FOSS modules provide long-term engagement (9–10 weeks) with important science ideas. Furthermore, modules build upon one another within and across each strand, progressively moving students toward the grand ideas of science. The core ideas of science are difficult and complex, never learned in one lesson or in one class year.

FOSS Elementary Module Sequences
Grades K-6
Mixtures and Solutions Motion, Force, and Models Weather on Earth Sun, Moon, and Planets Living Systems
Measuring Matter Energy and Electromagnetism Water Soils, Rocks, and Landforms Structures of Life Environments
Solids and Liquids Balance and Motion Air and Weather Pebbles, Sand, and Silt Plants and Animals Insects and Plants
Materials in Our World Trees and Weather Animals Two by Two

Science is more than a body of knowledge.

How well you think is often more important than how much you know. In addition to the science content framework, every FOSS module provides opportunities for students to engage in and understand scientific practices, and many modules explore issues related to engineering practices and the use of natural resources. FOSS promotes these scientific and engineering practices described in A Framework for K–12 Science Education.

  • Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
  • Planning and carrying out investigations
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Developing and using models
  • Using mathematics, information and computer technology, and computational thinking
  • Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
  • Engaging in argument from evidence
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communication information.

Science is inherently interesting, and children are
natural investigators.

Interesting Science

It is widely accepted that children learn science concepts best by doing science. Doing science means hands-on experiences with objects, organisms, and systems. Hands-on activities are motivating for students, and they stimulate inquiry and curiosity. For these reasons, FOSS is committed to providing the best possible materials and the most effective procedures for deeply engaging students with scientific concepts. FOSS students at all grade levels investigate, experiment, gather data, organize results, and draw conclusions based on their own actions. The information gathered in such activities enhances the development of scientific and engineering practices.

Education is an adventure in self-discovery.

Science provides the opportunity to connect to students™ interests and experiences. Prior experiences and individual learning styles are important considerations for developing understanding. Observing is often equated with seeing, but in the FOSS Program all senses are used to promote greater understanding. FOSS evolved from pioneering work done in the 1970s with students with disabilities. The legacy of that work is that FOSS investigations naturally use multisensory methods to accommodate students with physical and learning disabilities and also to maximize information gathering for all students. A number of tools, such as the FOSS syringe and balance, were originally designed to serve the needs of students with disabilities.

Formative assessment is a powerful tool to promote learning and can change the culture of the learning environment.

Formative assessment in FOSS creates a community of reflective practice. Teachers and students make up the community and establish norms of mutual support, trust, respect, and collaboration. The goal of the community is that everyone will demonstrate progress and will learn and grow.

Science-centered language development promotes learning in all areas.

Science Notebooks

Effective use of science notebooks can promote reflective thinking and contribute to life-long learning. Research has shown that when language-arts experiences are embedded within the context of learning science, students improve in their ability to use their language skills. Students are eager to read to find out information, and to share their experiences both verbally and in writing.

Experiences out of the classroom develop awareness
of community.

Experiences out of the classroom

By extending classroom learning into the outdoors, FOSS brings the science concepts and principles to life. In the process of validating classroom learning among the schoolyard trees and shrubs, down in the weeds on the asphalt, and in the sky overhead, students will develop a relationship with nature. It is our relationship with natural systems that allows us to care deeply for these systems.