Program Planning and Cross-Curricular and Integrated Learning in Science
Educators consider many factors when planning a science 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 programs. In addition, all of the general “Program Planning” sections on this site apply to this curriculum.
Effective science instruction in the Grade 9 de-streamed science course begins with knowing the complex identities and profiles of the students, having high academic expectations for and of all students, providing supports when needed, and believing that all students can learn and do science. Teachers incorporate culturally responsive and relevant pedagogy (CRRP) and provide authentic learning experiences to meet individual students’ learning strengths and needs. Effective science instruction focuses on the development of conceptual understanding and takes place in a safe and inclusive learning environment, where all students are valued, empowered, engaged, and able to take risks.
Learning should be relevant: embedded in the lived realities of all students and inspired by authentic, real-life contexts as much as possible. This approach allows students to develop key scientific concepts and skills, to appreciate the beauty and wide-ranging nature of science, and to realize the potential of science to raise awareness and effect social change that is innovative and sustainable. A focus on making learning relevant supports students in their use of scientific reasoning to make connections throughout their lives.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Differentiated Instruction (DI)
Students in every science classroom vary in their identities, lived experiences, personal interests, learning profiles, and readiness to learn new concepts and skills. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and differentiated instruction (DI) are robust and powerful approaches to designing assessment and instruction to engage all students in scientific tasks that develop conceptual understanding. UDL and DI can be used in combination to help teachers respond effectively to the strengths and needs of all students.
The aim of the UDL framework is to assist teachers in designing science programs and environments that provide all students with equitable access to the science curriculum. Teachers take into account students’ diverse learner profiles by designing tasks that offer individual choice, ensuring relevance and authenticity, providing graduated levels of challenge, and fostering collaboration in the science classroom. Teachers also represent concepts and information in multiple ways to help students become resourceful and knowledgeable learners. For example, teachers use a variety of media to ensure that students are provided with alternatives for auditory and visual information. To support learners as they focus strategically on their learning goals, teachers create an environment in which learners can express themselves using a range of kinesthetic, visual, and auditory strengths. For example, teachers can vary ways in which students can respond and demonstrate their understanding of concepts, and support students in goal-setting, planning, and time-management skills related to their science learning.
Designing science tasks through UDL allows the learning to be “low floor, high ceiling” – that is, all students are provided with the opportunity to find their own entry point to the learning. Teachers can then support students in working at their own pace and provide further support as needed, while continuing to move student learning forward by using varied approaches and engaging students in learning tasks with varied levels of complexity and challenge. This is an inclusive approach that is grounded in a growth mindset: the belief that everyone can do well in science.
While UDL provides teachers with broad principles for planning science instruction and learning experiences for a diverse group of students, DI allows them to address specific skills and learning needs. DI is student centred and involves a strategic blend of whole-class, small-group, and individual learning activities to suit students’ differing strengths, interests, and levels of readiness to learn. Attending to students’ varied readiness for learning science is an important aspect of differentiated teaching. Learners who are ready for greater challenges need support in aiming higher, developing belief in excellence, and co-creating problem-based tasks to increase the complexity while still maintaining joy in learning. Students who are struggling to learn a concept need to be provided with the scaffolding and encouragement to reach high standards. To make certain concepts more accessible, teachers can employ strategies such as offering students choice, and providing open-ended problems that are based on relevant real-life situations and supported with visual and hands-on learning.
Universal Design for Learning and differentiated instruction are integral aspects of an inclusive science program and the achievement of equity in science education. More information on these approaches can be found in the ministry publication Learning for All: A Guide to Effective Assessment and Instruction for All Students, Kindergarten to Grade 12 (2013).
In Ontario, various laws, including the Education Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), Ryan’s Law (Ensuring Asthma Friendly Schools), 2015, and Sabrina’s Law, 2005, 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;
- 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 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, Careers, 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 scientific concepts and contexts through coding, while also learning valuable skills related to the automation and control of systems.
In Grade 9 science, coding is to be integrated across the strands as a means of providing the following:
- a hands-on, experiential way to learn about scientific 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 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 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 scientific 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 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 context;
- an opportunity for agency in their science 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 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 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, 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 portfolio.
It is important to note that the coding expectations in Grade 9 science build on the coding expectations in Grade 1 to 8 science and technology, and that these coding expectations complement the coding expectations in Grade 1 to 8 mathematics and in Grade 9 mathematics. 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 expectations provide students with an in-depth exploration of coding concepts and skills within science, science and technology, and mathematics, which speaks to coding’s cross-curricular nature and its application in a wide variety of STEM fields.
The Impact of Emerging Technologies
The science curriculum includes learning related to the impact of emerging technologies on everyday life and in various STEM-related careers, including the skilled trades. This is an engaging topic that can capture the imagination of students as they consider exciting innovations in science across all subdisciplines of science, 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, privacy, 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, including careers. They may also want to explore emerging technologies in specific areas, such as sustainable agricultural practices, green chemistry, electrical energy production and storage, and space exploration.
Students will assess the impact of emerging technologies on their own lives and the lives of others, in fields of study within science, and on related careers. In doing so, students can use a critical lens when investigating important environmental and societal issues related to science, 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 skilled trade is a career path that requires hands-on work and specialty knowledge. Skilled trades workers apply scientific 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, plumbing, 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 curriculum, students will describe practical applications of scientific concepts in their home and community. These expectations provide opportunities for students to learn about science, technology, and innovation related to the skilled trades. In addition, a number of scientific concepts within the Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Earth and Space Science strands 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.
Climate change is an important topic addressed in age-appropriate learning throughout the strands of the science course. 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.