Saturday, August 26, 2023

From a 1922 Science Textbook: How School Science Has Changed

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Education, Technology

Ed Hessler

The diagram is from The Science of Common Things; a Textbook of General Science, by Samuel F. Tower and Joseph R. Lunt (D. C. Heath,1922), for junior high school/high-school students. Tower is listed as Head Master of South Boston High School and formerly Head of Science High School, Boston. Lunt is listed as Teacher of General Science at English High School and Lecturer on Methods of Teaching General Science.

This is a very small example of how science content has changed from an emphasis on the practical and how things work to currently one I hope will be the polishing and improvements of concepts, science practices, and cross-cutting concepts. It also provides a hint on how instruction has changed.  Then it was a time of direct instruction, memorizing, "canned" experiments  (specific laboratory instructions as well as teacher led demonstrations). 

Over time as more emphasis was paid to how humans learn, instruction has changed to more active learning with an emphasis on investigations that are more open-ended but with aims in mind. What do you think of the kinds of questions asked, i.e., are they closed or open, thus used as questions to ask his/her own and to invite further inquiry? Here is a long paper from the Journal of Science Education with a table on science content topics and time periods and near the bottom of the methods section (just below Figure 5) the various changes in research topics which I'm using as a surrogate for content change in textbooks.

The Science History Institute lists the topics found in the book: air, food, water, weather, fire, heating, lighting and electricity within homes, clothing and microscopic organisms. The text included scientific projects and experiments, a list of equipment needed for teaching using this text, diagrams and illustrations including printed photographic reproductions of students conducting experiments and lab equipment setups for change.

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