Planning For Independence



The science program should be relevant to students and provide them with the attitudes, skills, and knowledge they require to participate in a changing world. It should also provide them with opportunities to explore, discuss, and describe their environment. Students should be encouraged to ask questions, conduct investigations, make decisions, evaluate, and make generalizations.

In a successful science program, the concepts developed are related to the real world, and their societal implications are discussed and made clear. Whether the students continue to study science or not, they will be members of a society in which the roles of science and technology are ever widening. The skills, attitudes, and knowledge developed in a science program can serve as preparation for future decision making.

Science can also improve students' quality of life by developing their awareness and appreciation of the beauty and value of their natural environment. This improvement can involve enjoying plants and animals in their homes or participating in such leisure activities as nature walks, excursions to conservation areas, and visits to natural-science museums.

The study of science provides students with excellent opportunities to experience their world first-hand; to increase their sense of responsibility for the environment (e.g., their concern for animal protection, plant care, and energy efficiency); and to develop the cognitive skills of observing, classifying, ordering, measuring, communicating, and solving real problems. Exposure to many scientific topics will also increase students' awareness of career opportunities that might otherwise escape their notice.

The Planning Cycle

Assessment and Development

In the first two phases of the planning cycle, educators need to:

  • examine the regular curriculum, focusing on general topics of study, with an eye for integration opportunities;
  • make parents aware of the general goals in science, to ensure reinforcement at home.

Implementation and Evaluation

In the last two phases of the planning cycle, educators need to:

  • ensure that lesson content is clear and the materials used, appropriate;
  • ensure that the activities for a particular science unit in some way address problems that have been raised in class;
  • take care that students understand the language that is used to discuss scientific explorations;
  • start scientific explorations with students' spontaneous questions regarding phenomena in their natural environment;
  • provide opportunities for related language and mathematics activities, as consistent with a holistic approach;
  • as part of the evaluation process, assess students' ability to question and to solve problems in meaningful and practical situations;
  • make use of the many areas of science that relate to independent living (e.g., weather, science in the home, safety, care of the environment, efficient use of energy, plant and animal care);
  • model safe practices and communicate safety expectations;
  • model strategies of exploration and investigation for students;
  • instruct students in the proper care and handling of living things;
  • in science activities, use the strategies of partial participation, co-operative learning, and peer tutoring, and modify evaluation procedures.


Ontario. Ministry of Education. Science in Primary and Junior Education: A Statement of Direction. Toronto: Ministry of Education, Ontario, 1986.

_____. Science, Intermediate and Senior Divisions, Part 1: Program Outline and Policy. Curriculum Guideline. Toronto: Ministry of Education, Ontario, 1987.

_____. Science Is Happening Here: A Policy Statement for Science in the Primary and Junior Divisions. Toronto: Ministry of Education, Ontario, 1988.

Case Study - Elementary Level

Student Profile Seven-year-old Kristi is autistic. She is learning to express herself, using gestures and a repertoire of five signs (for cookie, ball, camera, cake, friend); she uses the signs consistently. She is fairly independent in meeting her personal needs (washing, dressing, eating). However, although quite mobile, Kristi requires supervision, as she is unaware of dangers and is not always focused or purposeful in her wanderings. She is inconsistent in her response to instruction, sometimes attending well and at other times seemingly unaware of expectations. She can hold a pencil and a crayon and can colour in a defined area, but she requires hand-over-hand assistance for cutting activities. She enjoys painting and playdough activities.

Learning Environment Kristi attends a special class of six students in a regular school. She is integrated with other students during recess and lunch periods and for assemblies and special activities. She is also integrated into a Grade 1 class for music and student-directed activities.

Expected Learning Outcomes Kristi is expected to:

  • participate in a new Primary Division science program;
  • become better known to her Grade 1 peers;
  • develop skills in observing and classifying.

Student Program Kristi is being provided with opportunities to:

  • participate in small-group instruction, with a group of peers who can provide appropriate models, to increase her ability to attend to a task;
  • increase her repertoire of single words and signs;
  • develop the concept of classification (e.g., living versus non-living things);
  • participate in science activities and listen to students' discussions in the Primary class;
  • improve her finemotor skills through participation in hands-on experiences and extensive use of manipulative materials;
  • produce a mural on the theme "Animals We See in the Neighbourhood" with a small group of students (her participation can include colouring in a defined area, placing cutouts on the background, or sponge painting to cover the background);
  • increase her independence in finding various areas of the school by learning to walk from the special class to the Grade 1 class on her own; increase her awareness of her natural environment by joining the Grade 1 class on a nature walk;
  • develop friendships, through her involvement in the science program, that will carry over into other areas of school life;
  • increase her ability to generalize by having concepts reinforced at home (e.g., parents can point out animals that have been discussed at school and can remind her of their names or signs).

Case Study - Secondary Level

Student Profile Eighteen-year-old Darren is autistic and functionally blind. He requires supervision and direction in his personal-care routines. He is not yet independently mobile within the school but is learning to find specific rooms and areas with the aid of a peer. He has no spoken language and communicates by reaching and searching for things in his immediate vicinity. He adapts slowly to change and works best in a familiar, predictable environment. He has made friends at school, and they spend time with him regularly.

Learning Environment Darren attends a regular secondary school near his home. A special education resource teacher is responsible for his program, and a facilitator is available to help with its implementation. Darren participates in special events and assemblies and is well known in the school. A small group of students work with him regularly.

Expected Learning Outcomes Darren is expected to:

  • increase his repertoire of meaningful activities in science-related areas;
  • increase his participation in the life of his household as a result of learning to care for plants and animals;
  • increase his ability to engage in a chosen activity independently.

Student Program Darren is being provided with opportunities to:

  • develop skills in plant and animal care;
  • participate, with his facilitator, in a work-experience program (in a pet store in a mall near his home) in order to learn how to handle and feed animals;
  • water plants regularly, with the assistance of a peer, in the library and resource room;
  • increase his ability to use certain tools and equipment in caring for plants and animals.

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