The National Standards
The National Science Education Content Standards "outline what students should know, understand and be able to do in the natural sciences over the course of K-12 education." Although most science teachers are aware of the subject matter understandings (e.g., Physical Science Standards) in their respective disciplines, too little attention is devoted to the categories of:
- Science in personal and social perspectives
- History and nature of science
- Science and technology
- Science as inquiry
This exhibit provides material that speaks to these dimensions of science content knowledge as well as the required Physical Science Standards. This exhibit is an excellent vehicle by which to bring the full Content Standards to the science classroom.
- Physical Science Standards: The Discovery of Fission unit and related teachers' guide provides an introduction to the structure of atoms as outlined in the 9-12 content standards. This includes historical accounts and problem solving involving the mass and charge of atoms, the Coulomb force as well as nuclear structure, nuclear forces, fission and radioactivity.
- Science in personal and social perspectives: The discovery of nuclear fission and the subsequent development of nuclear weapons and nuclear power are arguably the most important interplays between science and society in the latter 20th century. The National Standards call for students to understand topics related to Natural and Human-Induced Hazards and topics involving Science and Technology in Local, National, and Global Challenges. This exhibit strongly supports this dimension of content knowledge.
- History and nature of science: The Discovery of Fission unit and related teachers' guide provide an example of curriculum materials that support this content standard. The script and exercises emphasize Science as a Human Endeavor, speak to the Nature of Scientific Knowledge and provide Historical Perspectives.
- Science and technology: the scientists involved in the discovery of fission note the interplay of science and technology in various discussions. From the Cockcroft-Walton accelerator to the chemistry laboratory of Hahn, Strassman and Meitner to Frisch's ionization chamber and pulse amplifier to Anderson's sharing of equipment with Fermi to the replication of experiments in New York, Paris and California, students will be well aware of how science and technology are inseparable in the quest for knowledge.
- Science as inquiry: One component of the inquiry content standard is that students should understand that scientists engage in inquiry and the nature of that engagement. In the Discovery of Fission, students learn about the types of questions that scientists ask, how they rely on technology to gather data, how mathematics is used and how scientific explanations must adhere to specified criteria. They are also introduced to different kinds of investigations and communication of scientists.