Program Planning and Cross-Curricular and Integrated Learning in Science and Technology
Educators consider many factors when planning a science and technology program that cultivates the best possible environment in which all students can maximize their learning. This section highlights important areas of focus that educators should consider, including areas of cross-curricular and integrated learning, as they plan effective and inclusive science and technology programs.
In addition, all of the general “Program Planning” sections on this site apply to this curriculum.
In Ontario, various laws, including the Education Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), Ryan’s Law, and Sabrina’s Law, collectively ensure that school boards provide a safe and productive learning and work environment for both students and employees. Under the Education Act, teachers are required to ensure that all reasonable safety procedures are carried out in the programs and activities for which they are responsible. Teachers should always model safe practices; communicate safety requirements to students in accordance with school board policies, Ministry of Education policies, and any applicable laws; and encourage students to assume responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others.
Concern for safety must be an integral part of instructional planning and implementation. Teachers are encouraged to review:
- their responsibilities under the Education Act;
- their rights and responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act;
- their school board’s health and safety policy for employees;
- their school board’s policies and procedures relating to student health and safety (e.g., those related to concussions, medical conditions such as asthma, outdoor education excursions);
- relevant provincial subject association guidelines and standards for student health and safety;
- any additional mandatory requirements, particularly for higher-risk activities (e.g., field trips, workplaces), including requirements for approvals (e.g., from the supervisory officer), permissions (e.g., from parents), and/or qualifications.
Wherever possible, potential risks should be identified and procedures developed to prevent or minimize, and respond to, incidents and injuries. School boards provide and maintain safe equipment, facilities, materials, and tools as well as qualified instruction. In safe learning environments, teachers will:
- be aware of up-to-date safety information;
- plan activities with safety as a primary consideration;
- inform students and parents of risks involved in activities;
- observe students to ensure that they are following safe practices, including the wearing of personal protective equipment;
- have a plan in case of emergency;
- show foresight;
- act quickly.
To carry out their responsibilities with regard to safety, it is important not only that teachers have concern for their own safety and that of students, but also that they have:
- the knowledge necessary to safely use the materials, tools, and procedures involved in science and technology;
- knowledge concerning the care of living things – plants and animals – that are brought into the classroom;
- the skills needed to perform tasks efficiently and safely.
Note: Teachers supervising students using power equipment such as drills, sanders, and saws need to have specialized training in handling such tools.
Students should be made aware that health and safety is everyone’s responsibility – at home; at school; in the community, including in the natural environment; and while visiting, and participating in experiential learning in, workplace settings. Teachers should ensure that students have the knowledge and skills needed for safe participation in all learning activities. Students must be able to demonstrate knowledge of the equipment, facilities, materials, and tools being used and the procedures necessary for their safe use.
Students demonstrate that they have the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind required for safe participation in science and technology activities when they:
- maintain a well-organized and uncluttered work space;
- follow established safety procedures;
- identify possible safety concerns;
- suggest and implement appropriate safety procedures;
- carefully follow the instructions and example of the teacher;
- consistently show care and concern for their safety and that of others.
An important part of scientific research, scientific experimentation, and engineering design processes is that students select appropriate equipment, materials, and tools for their investigations and designs. Schools and boards should collaborate to ensure that students have access to the necessary facilities, equipment, materials, and tools to support their learning and maintain a safe learning environment.
Learning outside the classroom, such as on field trips or during field studies, can provide a meaningful and authentic dimension to students’ learning experiences. Teachers must plan these activities carefully in accordance with their school board’s relevant policies and procedures and in collaboration with other school board staff (e.g., the principal, outdoor education lead, supervisory officer) to ensure students’ health and safety.
The information provided in this section is not exhaustive. Teachers are expected to follow all school board health and safety policies and procedures.
Coding Concepts and Skills
Strand A, STEM Skills and Connections, includes expectations related to the application of coding concepts and skills that are to be integrated across the other four strands. This allows students to explore a wide variety of science and technology concepts and contexts through coding, while also learning valuable skills related to the automation and control of systems.
In Grades 1 to 3, students learn foundational concepts and practices that will allow them to successfully approach coding activities in science and technology, as well as in mathematics and other subjects. These concepts and practices include the creation of clear and precise algorithms; decomposing problems into smaller steps; and testing, debugging, and refining programs.
In Grades 4 to 6, students explore different ways of generating output, storing and processing data, and obtaining input. The physical computing context, which can include components such as motors, sensors, and microcontrollers, can provide a valuable context for this learning, or students can explore these concepts and associated skills by developing programs without external, physical components.
In Grade 7, students learn about effective ways to use coding to plan, design, and implement projects. Such learning ensures that students are equipped with skills to effectively complete more complex programs. In Grade 8, students combine the skills developed in the previous grades, as they design and implement a larger, automated system in action.
In Grade 1 to 8 science and technology, coding is to be integrated across the strands as a means of providing the following:
- a hands-on, experiential way to learn about science and technology concepts. For example, students can create models or simulations and then alter their components to see how the changes affect the system. This approach gives students a better understanding of both the system itself and the scientific and technological concepts involved;
- a hands-on, experiential way to do science. For example, students can obtain data from sensors and use coding concepts and skills to analyse experimental data, draw conclusions, and solve scientific problems;
- a hands-on, experiential way to develop solutions to technological problems. For example, students can design, build, and program robots, conveyor belts, or interactive art projects with music, motors, and LEDs to help them visualize elements of a possible solution and gain an appreciation of the power of automation. Students have opportunities to feel empowered as they build physical, working solutions;
- a hands-on, experiential way to demonstrate their learning. For example, students can program automated digital stories, dioramas, presentation components, or interactive museum displays to showcase their skills and knowledge and to teach others about science and technology concepts in an engaging and interactive way;
- a hands-on, experiential way to learn about the digital world around them. For example, students can learn about algorithms and automation and can develop an introductory understanding of how social media, autonomous cars, artificial intelligence, and other digital technologies are programmed. Digital technologies are demystified as students develop an understanding of the foundational instructions that program our digital world;
- an opportunity to share and take pride in their work. For example, after students have programmed a computer, they can share their project with their classmates, peers, family, and/or community members. This gives them an opportunity to connect with others in a science and technology context;
- an opportunity for agency in their science and technology learning. For example, the coding context provides students with multiple entry points and multiple directions to take, allowing them to be creative and innovative as they design and build scientific and technological solutions, and as they imagine what might be possible in the future;
- an opportunity for students to realize that they can shape the future in a positive way. For example, while students are accustomed to using digital technologies, they learn through coding that they also have the opportunity to develop these technologies and create change.
Teachers may find it valuable to connect coding expectations with an engineering design process (EDP), as the development of a coding project often requires a guiding design framework for which an EDP is very well suited. Students can define and research the specific science and/or technology problem that they want to solve through coding and then generate ideas and select the best plan or program design. Coding environments allow for rapid ideating, prototyping, testing, and evaluating as students refine and debug their projects, and as they connect these projects to entrepreneurial ventures or to solving problems in their communities. The finalizing and sharing stage of an EDP provides an exciting and enriching classroom and school experience where students can showcase their coding projects to classmates, peers, and/or the school community. Finally, students or teachers should find creative ways of archiving projects, through digital storage of code, photographs, or videos. Many students may want to keep these archived projects in a science and technology portfolio.
It is important to note that the coding expectations in Grade 1 to 8 science and technology complement the coding expectations in Grade 1 to 8 mathematics, without repeating the same learning. Students and teachers will find that the skills and knowledge developed in one curriculum area will be supported in the other. By complementing each other, these two sets of expectations provide students with an in-depth exploration of coding concepts and skills within science and technology as well as mathematics, which speaks to coding’s cross-curricular nature and its application in a wide variety of STEM fields.
The Impact of Coding and of Emerging Technologies
Strand A includes learning related to the impact of coding and of emerging technologies on everyday life and in STEM-related fields, including skilled trades. This is an engaging topic that can capture the imagination of students as they consider exciting innovations in science and technology across all strands of the curriculum, and as they imagine a hopeful future. This topic also provides students with an opportunity to critically assess technologies and to consider issues surrounding accessibility, appropriate use, bias, ethical design, and environmental sustainability.
Teachers and students may want to investigate emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and automation, that impact a wide range of areas and disciplines. They may also want to explore emerging technologies in specific areas, such as agriculture, horticulture, health care, or biology, in the Life Systems strand, or in electrical and communication systems, transportation, and chemistry, in the Matter and Energy strand. The Structures and Mechanisms strand provides opportunities to investigate emerging technologies in construction, manufacturing, design, or physics, while the Earth and Space Systems strand provides exciting opportunities for investigations into sustainable energy use, green industries, and Earth and space science.
Students will assess the impact of coding and of emerging technologies on their own lives and the lives of others, in fields of study within science and technology, and on related careers. In doing so, students can establish a critical lens when investigating important environmental and societal issues related to science and technology, and can be optimistic and excited about the future. This learning also provides an opportunity for students to see themselves working with and further developing these emerging technologies in the future.
A number of concepts and skills in the science and technology curriculum relate directly to the skilled trades. A skilled trade is a career path that requires hands-on work and specialty knowledge. Skilled trades workers apply science and technology concepts as they build and maintain infrastructure like our homes, schools, hospitals, roads, water treatment plants, power stations, farms, and parks. They keep industries running and perform many services that we rely on every day, such as hairstyling, food preparation, and social services. There is a wide variety of skilled trades in Ontario, falling under the sectors of construction, industrial, motive power, and service.
Throughout the science and technology curriculum, students will identify and describe the impact of coding and of emerging technologies and will describe practical applications of science and technology concepts in their home and community. These expectations provide opportunities for students to learn about technology and innovation related to the skilled trades. In addition, a number of science and technology concepts within Life Systems, Matter and Energy, Structures and Mechanisms, and Earth and Space Systems relate directly to the creative and critical-thinking, problem-solving, and hands-on work essential to the skilled trades. Educators are encouraged to help students make these important connections, as they provide students with authentic, meaningful, and hands-on experiences and activities that connect directly to their lives and communities. Educators are also encouraged to provide students with valuable experiential learning opportunities that connect students with role models with diverse lived experiences. Classroom presentations given by guest speakers from under-represented populations, such as women engaged in the skilled trades, may provide an excellent opportunity to do so.
The secondary technological education curriculum includes broad-based areas of learning that relate to many skilled trades, and it is important that students become aware of and exposed to the skilled trades and apprenticeship as a potential pathway. Elementary science and technology sets the groundwork for this secondary curriculum.
Climate change is an important topic addressed in age-appropriate learning throughout the strands of the science and technology curriculum. While climate change concepts and discussions address important environmental concerns, it is important to also foster hope and optimism in teaching and learning about climate change and other environmental issues. Students will develop the skills and knowledge needed to understand the causes and potential innovative solutions and mitigation strategies related to climate change and other environmental issues, and how they can make the most environmentally responsible decisions possible, given the choices they have.
In the science and technology curriculum, skills and knowledge related to food literacy are wide-ranging, from students developing an understanding of where food comes from, including the importance of locally sourced food and how it is grown and prepared, to students investigating the importance of biodiversity in agriculture.
Specific expectations related to food literacy are found in the Life Systems, Matter and Energy, Structures and Mechanisms, and Earth and Space Systems strands. In these strands, students describe various plants used for food; explain how food literacy can support decisions related to physical and mental health; describe the purpose, inputs, and outputs of systems related to food processing; identify food as a source of energy for living things; and describe how different soils are suited to growing different types of food, including crops.
Food literacy involves considering not only where food comes from, but also the interrelationships between food and the environment, the economy, our society, and diverse cultures. Food literacy has connections to climate change, biodiversity, and relationships with the land and ecosystems, including varying perspectives on foods and plants within First Nations, Métis, and Inuit contexts, and provides educators and students with valuable opportunities in which to situate and connect their learning. Experiential, hands-on approaches to food literacy skills and knowledge can help students to connect their learning to Ontario’s diverse agricultural sector, as well as their own lives and communities.