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JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN SCIENCE TEACHING

VOL. 38, NO. 8, PP. 878 ± 898 (2001)

Connecting School and Community with Science Learning: Real World Problems and School ± Community Partnerships as Contextual Scaffolds

Lisa M. Bouillion, Louis M. Gomez
Northwestern University, Annenberg Hall, 2115 N. Campus Drive, Evanston, Illinois 60208 Received 2 October 2000; accepted 1 June 2001
Abstract: A challenge facing many schools, especially those in urban settings that serve culturally and linguistically diverse populations, is a disconnection between schools and students' home communities, which can have both cognitive and affective implications for students. In this article we explore a form of ``connected science,'' in which real-world problems and school-community partnerships are used as contextual scaffolds for bridging students' community-based knowledge and school-based knowledge, as a way to provide all students opportunities for meaningful and intellectually challenging science learning. The potential of these scaffolds for connected science is examined through a case study in which a team of ®fth-grade teachers used the student-identi®ed problem of pollution along a nearby river as an interdisciplinary anchor for teaching science, math, language arts, and civics. Our analysis makes visible how diverse forms of knowledge were able to support project activities, examines the consequences for student learning, and identi®es the features of real-world problems and school ± community partnerships that created these bridging opportunities. ß 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 38: 878 ± 898, 2001

A challenge facing many educational institutions, especially those in urban settings aiming to serve culturally and linguistically diverse populations, is the disconnect between schools and students' home communities. Schools are in communities but often not of communities. That is, teaching and learning are often disconnected from the day-to-day life of the community, and students don't see how the skills they acquire in school have currency in business, at home, and in other communities beyond school. This ``not seeing'' is understandable if one looks at the patterns of activity in schools, which fail to be socially well articulated. Vygotsky (1986) and others in the sociocultural tradition (e.g., Moll, 1992) argue that learning is mediated by highly articulated tasks and activities in the social contexts of day-to-day living. Patterns of activity

Written in collaboration with the teachers of John Greenleaf Whittier Elementary: Kim Alamar, Albert Delgado, Sheila Epstein, Claudia Greene, Susan Kolian, and Martha Pedroza. Contract grant sponsor: Reality Based Learning Project, U.S. Department of Education; contract grant number: R303A60162.

Contract grant sponsor: National Science Foundation, SBILE Project, and to the Center for Learning Technologies in Urban Schools; contract grant numbers: REC-9720377 and REC-9720383. Correspondence to: L.M. Bouillion; e-mail: l-bouillion@northwestern.edu ß 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

CONNECTING SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY WITH SCIENCE LEARNING

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from school often do not ®t the more articulated activities that children observe or in which they participate outside school. This disconnect can lead learners to perceive school learning as separate from life learning. We conjecture that this decoupling leads to a disengagement in which some learners fail to see schooling as an avenue for life progress. This disconnect is reinforced by narrowly de®ned scienti®c ways of knowing that are separated from context and personal experience (e.g., Brickhouse, 1994; Moses, Kamii, Swap, & Howard, 1989). Here we discuss one approach to helping children see and discover connected meaning in their science learning that extends beyond the classroom.

Contextual Scaffolds for Bridging School- and Community-Based Science Knowledge One design challenge in creating learning environments with...
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