Secondary Science

  • Philosophy

    Science instruction in Saint Paul Public Schools is founded on the belief that all students should think, act, and view themselves as scientists and engineers. Building on their prior knowledge, students construct an understanding of how the natural world works. Through hands-on inquiry investigations, students answer scientific questions, make evidence-based claims, and communicate and justify their explanations. These experiences allow students to develop a deep understanding of the science concepts and science process skills identified by the state standards. As a result, students become scientifically literate citizens.

  • Guidelines

    Schedule and format

    • Every day or equivalent schedule
    • Follow the unit order and benchmarks placement listed in the course syllabus
    • Engineering should be incorporated into science units when possible
    • Use unwrapped units for backwards designed lesson plans
    • Three years are required for graduation; this must include one year of biology and one year of either chemistry or physics
  • Structure

    Instructional Design
    Lesson duration varies and may span multiple class periods. The following elements should be present within a unit, not necessarily within a single class period.

    • Instruction is designed and implemented based on the Minnesota Academic Standards in Science, and Science Course Syllabi.
    • Instruction is designed around the 5E Instructional Model.
    • Lessons incorporate student voice and choice through the use of scientific inquiry and the construction of scientific explanations for the causes of natural phenomena
    • Students use background knowledge to make a claim about a scientific question based on a natural phenomenon.
      1. Students use new evidence from labs, reading, field studies, and/or other sources
      2. Students discuss the new evidence with others and revise and refine their claim.
      3. Students have opportunities to encounter new evidence until students can synthesize ideas so their claims reflect the targeted scientific concept.
      4. Students choose how to share their findings with others. Communication formats include oral, written, digital, video, and other presentation styles.
    • Instruction should connect to students’ lives outside the classroom
    • Process skills and content are taught together
    • Students use technology to collect and analyze data, document observations through photos and video, research science concepts, and communicate new understanding.
    • Engineering lessons support and extend the science concepts found in the state science standards, and highlight engineers representing a variety of cultures.
    • Appropriate safety procedures and use of materials are communicated, modeled and followed.

    Daily Instruction  

    • Lessons are designed around a single, clearly defined learning goal.
    • Guiding questions are posted and referred to throughout the lesson to help students understand science concept(s).
    • Lessons are planned with scaffolds and are differentiated to build deep understanding of science concepts.
    • Teachers promote higher order thinking through questioning strategies such as probing for understanding, eliciting multiple perspectives and solutions, using wait time, challenging students to clarify their thinking, and adjusting question type and complexity as needed.
    • Students communicate their current understanding to others by sharing findings and lab results, making predictions, and making claims based on evidence from labs and/or other resources. This can be done through a written notebook reflection, part of a lab report, or a discussion.
    • Multiple modes of learning need to be incorporated, including hands-on labs, classroom discussions, videos, simulations, readings, and reflections.

  • Variations

    • Use technology for self-paced learning, flipped classrooms, individualized research, and/or data collection and analysis.
    • Make use of outdoor learning opportunities.
    • Differentiate reading levels electronic resources such as Newsela and Library Go.
    • Student notebooks may be electronic, using Notability or Book Creator, or paper-based.

  • Assessment

    • Students are able to articulate what was learned that day verbally and/or in writing. An example would be to answer the lesson’s guiding question.
    • Teachers use ongoing formative and summative assessments to check for understanding and inform re-teaching and/or modeling as needed.
    • Teachers adjust instruction as needed based on formative assessments. Examples include: pair/share, fist to five, quick writes, exit tickets.
    • Teachers circulate to all students to check for understanding and/or probe for deeper

  • MCA Test Preparation

    • Starting in November, students should use the state’s Item Samplers and the district MCA science resources to:
      • become familiar with the tools of the computerized test.
      • find information in both the video and scenario to help answer the question.
      • analyze why one answer is better than another.
    • In middle school, this work should begin in 6th and 7th grade, but have its strongest focus in 8th grade.
    • In high school, students prepare for the test during the year in which they take biology.
    • MCA prep should be at least once a week for 10-15 minutes and increase in time and frequency closer to the test window. It also must allow students multiple opportunities to practice using the tools included in the computerized test, preferably on the devices and in the lab where they will take the test.


  • key image For Secondary Science Schoology group access, please contact Marty Davis (marshall.davis@spps.org)