Ontario revamps elementary science curriculum to beef up STEM, hands-on learning

The science curriculum in elementary schools has not been updated since 2007, and consultations on what changes were needed began in 2018.

Article content

Ontario is revamping the elementary school science curriculum to emphasize the importance of STEM education, the skilled trades, emerging technologies and hands-on practice.

Advertisement 2

Article content

The changes take effect in September 2022.

The science curriculum in elementary schools has not been updated since 2007, and consultations on what changes were needed began in 2018.

“Parents want to know that their child is learning relevant, current knowledge that reflects the world that we live in today,” Education Minister Stephen Lecce said at a media conference on Tuesday.

“We heard clearly that Ontarians want their children to learn more about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, focused on the life and job skills necessary for our students to succeed.”

A new section of the curriculum has been added that focuses on STEM skills.

Children will learn how to write and execute code starting in Grade 1. They will have the chance to design, build and test engineering prototypes in hands-on projects. That might include making a flying machine in Grade 6 and a conveyer belt in Grade 8, said education ministry staff in a background briefing.

Advertisement 3

Article content

They will also learn about emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence.

Students will also start learning about skilled trades as early as Grade 1, “highlighting the hands-on, practical nature of work in these fields” and later connecting how science and technology concepts are applied in the trades.

In addition, learning about climate change and environmental protection, which is now limited, will be featured throughout the elementary curriculum.

For instance, in Grade 5 students will learn how fossil fuels change the composition of the atmosphere; in Grade 6, they will study responsible use of electrical energy; and in Grade 8, they will identify climate change factors such as the melting of polar ice caps and the effect this has on local and global water systems.

Advertisement 4

Article content

The new curriculum will also beef up learning about “food literacy,” such as the importance of nutrition for mental and physical health, the role the environment plays in how food grows and the importance of locally sourced food.

In addition, an Indigenous perspective will be incorporated into the curriculum, helping students connect Indigenous ways of knowing and perspectives to explore real-world issues.

The ministry also announced that the Grade 9 science curriculum will be revised and de-streamed in the fall of 2022, which means there will no longer be separate “academic” and “applied” level courses. The Grade 9 science course has not been revised since 2008.

De-streaming ends the placement of students into academic pathways that limit their ability to go on to post-secondary studies.

Advertisement 5

Article content

Because the Grade 9 science course will combine what used to be applied and academic course levels, the number of “expectations” will be reduced. Staff in a technical briefing said this amounts to a streamlining and nothing meaningful will be lost.

The ministry began a consultation on science education in 2018. That included about 30,000 responses to an online survey and nearly 500 participants in a town hall, where the common message was that the province needed to improve STEM education, said ministry officials in the briefing.

In addition, they sought advice on curriculum changes from about 100 stakeholders, including universities and colleges, faculties of education, school boards, teacher federations, employers, and Indigenous partners.

The province has already revised the math curriculum in elementary schools and de-streamed Grade 9 math.

The Grade 9 de-streamed math course in place this school year includes learning on coding, data literacy, mathematical modelling and an emphasis on financial literacy, said the province.

The province has said it also plans to eliminate streaming in geography, English and French as a second language in Grade 9.

[email protected]

Advertisement 1

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *