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Teachers say 'spiral' science method could improve student scores, retention

Apr 22, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Riverton Middle School teacher Aziz Waheed is proposing changes to the school's science program.

He explained his idea to the Fremont County School District Board of Trustees, noting that the district's K-12 science committee found large gaps in what students learned in their science classes. He said creating a "spiraling" schedule would allow teachers to revisit specific science subjects more often.

"We're hoping multiple exposure will help them retain it more," he said. "We can delve into the topic more deeply as the student gets older."

In some cases, some subjects were introduced in middle school, but it wasn't until college that students came across the same subject again.

Tyler Jordan, also a science teacher at RMS, said the plan would permit teachers to switch to teach a new grade level each quarter. He said research has shown students forget quite a bit of what they learn a few months after learning it.

"After one year they're going to lose a lot, and after two years they don't have any (knowledge) of it," Jordan said.

After students go on to the next grade, a different teacher would revisit a subject learned the previous year. The method also would give students several teaching techniques and personalities, Waheed said, and teachers could work with different age levels and adjust their methods accordingly.

Jordan said the new system would help with consistent expectations, offer a mix of content through the year, switch from content to data interpretation, and all areas would apply to standardized tests such as iMAP and PAWS.

"This is actually going to be better for testing," Waheed told the school board. "We hope that by continuing (to refresh) them, that in the end they're going to have more knowledge."

He said that there is no guarantee on what science subject will be tested but by touching on several areas more than once, students would have a better overall understanding.

Some changes in the curriculum would allow for deeper study and prepare them for high school, Waheed said.

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