Available Tools, Option E:
Identifying Benchmarks Strands

Estimated Time: 2-3 hours.

Example of Use: Sample 2.5-Day Workshop Agenda.

List of Materials

You will need to prepare transparencies and handouts of strand maps and benchmark lists related to topics that you choose for the activities. For the workshop opening, select under "Strand Map" in Chapter 4: Transparencies one of the following: Costs and Benefits of Technology tcost.eps, Feedback and Control in Technological Systems, Physical and Conceptual Models and Their Uses, Understandability of the World, or Water Cycle. The map that you select for the opening should be one that will not be used later in this option.

For step 1, prepare a list of the K-12 benchmarks from a single Benchmarks section. Section 5E Flow of Matter and Energy is used in this presentation. Section 4C Processes that Shape the Earth (see HANDOUT and TRANSPARENCY) is also well-suited to this activity. The list you prepare should show the grade levels of the benchmarks.

For step 2, use a strand map from the same section that you chose for step 1 and print both the transparency and the two-page handout. (For section 5E, use the TRANSPARENCY and HANDOUT: Strand Map: Flow of Matter in Ecosystems; for section 4C, use the TRANSPARENCY and HANDOUT: Strand Map: Water Cycle.)

For step 3, select a different topic than the one used in steps 1 and 2. Costs and Benefits of Technology, Feedback and Control in Technological Systems, Physical and Conceptual Models and Their Uses, and Cells as Systems (2) are appropriate selections, and both handouts and transparencies for these strand maps are available in Chapters 3 and 4 respectively. Or you may substitute a topic for which a strand map exists among the 30 available on Benchmarks on Disk. Prepare a transparency and handouts for the strand map that you select.

For step 3 you will also need to prepare a list of benchmarks as a handout for participants to use in constructing their own maps. (For an example, see HANDOUT: Benchmarks from 5E Flow of Matter and Energy used in this option.) To prepare this list, first identify the Benchmarks sections (one or two) in which most of the benchmarks are found on the strand map that you have chosen for step 3. Prepare a list that includes all benchmarks from this section (or sections). Also include some related benchmarks from other sections of the same chapter. Next, examine the Also See box in the main section or sections you are considering for cross-references to sections in other chapters that may contain related benchmarks. Choose some related benchmarks for the list from these sections as well.

On the list, be sure to show the grade level with the text of each benchmark. Finally, make a transparency and handout of the benchmark list.

Sample Presentation
TRANSPARENCY: Sample strand map from this Leader’s Guide.

Distribute copies of Science for All Americans and Benchmarks for Science Literacy.

Presenter: The purpose of this activity is to show you how to develop a strand map—a flowchart such as this in which the connections in a K-12 collection of benchmarks that contribute to the progressive understanding of a topic are shown.  

Depending on the audience, you may wish to point out that this "development of understanding" map is different from a concept map, which shows how ideas may relate but not how they might develop over time.

Step 1: Help participants discover how understanding progresses from the K-2 benchmarks to the 9-12 benchmarks.

Presenter: You will remember that Science for All Americans contains statements of what all science literate Americans should know upon graduation from high school. This knowledge is, of course, based on knowledge learned in earlier grades. Let’s look at how understanding of concepts progresses through the various grade levels to grade 12. We’ll start by reading what SFAA recommends high school graduates should know about the topic.

Have participants read the first three paragraphs of Flow of Matter and Energy in SFAA Chapter 5 and discuss them briefly. Remind them that the statements they read are not simply topic headings for what high school graduates should know; rather, they present the actual knowledge and skills that make up science literacy for this topic.

Presenter: We will now examine how this understanding can develop through grades 2, 5, 8, and 12.  

Show TRANSPARENCY: Needs of Cells Strand from Benchmarks 5C (2). Use a highlighter marker to show how one color can be used to highlight benchmarks and parts of benchmarks in the list that are related to the same concept. (The Needs of Cells strand is shown in bold on the transparency).

Presenter: We have identified a strand of statements related to the topic "needs of cells." Note that whole benchmarks or parts of benchmarks may be placed in the strand.

Now use another color to highlight on the list benchmark K-2, #1; 3-5, #2; and 3-5, #3. Explain that you are marking a second strand that might be called "use of tools in the study of cells," and that a Benchmarks section may contain several strands.

TRANSPARENCY: Benchmarks from 5E Flow of Matter and Energy

Distribute colored highlighter markers and the HANDOUT: Benchmarks from 5E Flow of Matter and Energy. Ask participants, working alone or in pairs, to identify a strand for the topic Flow of Matter in Ecosystems on the list of benchmarks you have distributed.

When everyone has succeeded in identifying some benchmarks in this strand, have participants report their findings, sharing the reasoning they used. If time permits, ask participants to identify another strand in the section, such as Flow of Energy in Ecosystems.

Presenter: Why is it important for teachers of young children to know what the later benchmarks are for a topic? Why is it important for teachers of older students to know about benchmarks for the early years?  (Possible answers: In understanding a particular benchmark, familiarity with related benchmarks at earlier and later grade levels helps to clarify the meaning and the level of sophistication of the benchmark. Knowing benchmarks at earlier grade levels can help teachers pose questions to assess whether students know precursor ideas that they need in order to understand what is being taught.)

Step 2: Help participants see how, in order to understand a benchmark in one section, students may also need to understand benchmarks from other sections.

Distribute the HANDOUT and display the TRANSPARENCY: Strand Map: Flow of Matter in Ecosystems.

Presenter: In this kind of map we see not only how early learning connects to later learning of a topic within a single section, as we saw earlier, but also how benchmarks in one section contribute to understanding benchmarks in another section.

Point out that the arrows show connections among ideas. Give participants time to study the map.

Ask participants to work in pairs to explain any one connection shown on the map to a partner, telling how understanding one benchmark helps someone understand another. Have several responses shared. Responses might include "benchmark A is needed to understand benchmark B" or "benchmark C is a less sophisticated version of benchmark D." Point out that in other strands one benchmark might be a specific instance of a generalization found in another benchmark.

Invite participants to examine the strand map to see whether there are connections suggested which they do not understand or with which they do not agree. Discuss these.

Ask participants whether they think other arrows should be added to the map.

Ask how a strand map is like a flowchart. Discuss responses.

Comment that the benchmarks from sections other than 5E that are found in this strand map (for example, 4D and 6C) were found by examining references in the Also See box and by browsing K-12 benchmark lists for other sections in the same chapter (for example, 5A). Point out that sections within the same chapter are not referenced in the Also See box.

Step 3: Have participants construct a strand map and compare it with an existing strand map.

Presenter: Now let’s work in small groups to develop a strand map on the topic of ___________. This topic is addressed in Benchmarks section _____. While the materials are being distributed, please read the corresponding section in SFAA, which depicts adult science literacy on the topic.  Distribute scissors, tape or paste, large chart paper, and the HANDOUTS you prepared for step 3 (lists of related benchmarks from the same section, some benchmarks from other sections of the same chapter, and some related benchmarks from other chapters chosen from references in the Also See box for the original section.)

Ask participants to work in small groups to construct a map, showing with arrows which benchmarks relate to which others. Tell participants they may use entire benchmarks or parts of benchmarks, as they did in step 1, and that in constructing their maps they will probably use only some of the benchmarks in the handouts.

Circulate among participants as they develop their maps.

After maps are completed, display them. Have participants look at other groups’ maps and ask questions about reasons for differences.

Show participants the TRANSPARENCY of the strand map for same topic that you have selected from the Guide or from Benchmarks on Disk. Distribute the strand map HANDOUT, as well. Have participants’ compare their maps with the Project 2061 map and discuss possible reasons for differences.

Show participants exactly where in Benchmarks for Science Literacy you obtained the lists of benchmarks they were given for this part of the workshop.

Step 4: Have participants select a new topic and develop a strand map for it.

Tell participants that they will now develop a strand map on a topic of their own choosing. Participants may work alone or with partners. They will need chart paper, markers, and either Post-its or index cards of different colors on which to write the benchmarks. (If participants have access to computers and Benchmarks on Disk, they can easily make and print customized benchmark lists.)

Have participants begin by choosing their topics. Suggest that they choose two possible topics. Give them a few minutes to look into SFAA and Benchmarks for this selection. Then have participants share their topics. Listen carefully to these, and suggest changes in any for which you think construction of a strand map might be difficult. (For example, some topics might be too broad or too narrow to map without difficulty.)

Now have participants construct their own maps. Tell participants that, as before, they should work with benchmarks in the same section and in other sections of the same chapter. They may also look at the references in the Also See box, and they may even want to look through the table of contents and index for possible connecting ideas to include on their map.

Point out that participants may not find benchmarks that relate to their topic in every grade level. For example, the topic "cell specialization" is not found in K-2 or 3-5 benchmarks in section 5C. Another example is the topic "emergent properties of systems" in 11A, which is represented by benchmarks only at K-2 and 9-12 (Benchmarks, p. 264, Benchmark 11A, K-2, #3) and p. 266 (Benchmark 11A (9-12)#1). Give participants time to complete the maps. Circulate among groups, giving assistance where it is needed.

Have participants share their maps. As in step 3, give participants an opportunity to review other maps and to question the makers of the maps about their ideas.

Ask what can be learned from mapping activities such as those participants have completed. Some possible responses:

Distribute "How to Design a K-12 Benchmarks Strand" as a take-home handout.