Teacher Resources - Chapter 6 - Agenda Strategies


STS represents a departure from "traditional" science education, as it tends to see curriculum in an interdisciplinary context and in the context of personal and social perspectives. As you work with this chapter, reflect on your views of science as they relate to your science discipline, and ask yourself how these disciplines interact with technology and society. There are many interesting strategies of teaching presented in this chapter, and you might want to focus on them. Also, you find a couple of case studies of curriculum projects that are based on STS. You might also have your students visit the websites of these two projects (and others).

Initial Case to Consider: A Student-Centered Project

Initial Case to Consider: A Student-Centered Project

Is a project involving students in investigating human reproduction within the guidelines of science education? Students propose such a project, but the principal of the school demands a discussion. What evidence can the teacher bring to support reasons for such a project?

The Nature of STS

This chapter represents content that we have favored for many years, and find very exciting to introduce to not only prospective teachers, but teachers in-the-field.

In the first section, a brief review of the historical roots of STS is presented, and you might have students read this section and ask how their intial view of STS compares to the views expressed here.

STS Understandings referenced in the National Science Education Standards are shown below. These are familiar themes that appear in texts, and the focus on teacher-designed units of teaching. They are good starting points for work in the STS area.

Figure 6.1: STS Understandings in the National Science Education Standards

Characteristics of STS

Figure 6.2: STS Concepts

You might use the graphic above as a vehicle to discuss the key characteristics of STS.

  • Problem and Issue Oriented
  • Interdisciplinary Thinking
  • Connecting Science to Society
  • Global Thinking and the GAIA Hypothesis
  • Relevance

Figure 6.3: The Global Thinking Project used the concepts of STS to create an Internet-based program that involved students in investigating local environmental issues and problems.

Inquiry 6.1: Getting Involved in STS

This inquiry contains suggestions for getting your class involved in an STS project. I have found that projects like the ones suggestions are powerful ways to make STS practical.

Figure 6.4. An STS Project: Which of these countries has the highest bicycle-to-auto ratio? Which the lowest? You can check your results on p.407.

Strategies for Teaching STS in the Classroom

This section includes five different strategies that I hope you will find useful in helping your students design STS lesson plans and units of study. The strategies are underscored by helping students take responsibility for clarifying their values on moral and ethical implications of science.

  • STS Value Dilemma Sheet--This strategy uses a provocative statement or illustration to engage students in a discussion of "dilemma questions."
  • STS Action Drama--Roleplaying is the focus of this strategy. Students can make use of newspaper stories, congressional decisions and new laws as the basis for the content of action dramas.
  • Case Studies--Cases allow students to apply debate strategies to solve a case. Cases are quite powerful, and can involve students in discussions of real issues. For a powerful site on cases, take a look at the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science.
  • Online Dilemma Discussions--With the use of an online bulletin board, you can involve your students in a number of discussions of issues in science. I've shown some responses of high school students as they participate in an online discussion of cloning.
  • Think Pieces--Designed to stimulate reflection on important questions, Think Pieces are a powerful strategy for your students to use in their teaching lessons and units of instruction.

Inquiry Activity 6.2: STS Issues in Science Textbooks

In this inquiry, students analyze science textbooks using a classification of STS issues. The categories include key STS issues, such as human behavior, population growth, food supply, human reproduction, etc.

The STS Module

We have found that encouraging students to design an STS module, or mini-unit a powerful way to encourage the application of the strategies and themes outlined in this chapter.

You might introduce your students to Wiesenmayer and Rubba's environmental model. They outline a four stage process or instructional sequence as identified here:

  • STS Foundations
  • STS Issue Awareness
  • Issues Investigation
  • Action Skill Development

Inquiry Activity 6.3: STS Module Design

Using the four stage STS design mentioned above, in this inquiry students will apply the concepts introduced in this chapter. You could use this as the major activity of the chapter, and have students work in teams to develop a module, and present to the class for feedback and review.

STS Themes and How to Teach Them

This section presents eight STS areas as potential themes for an STS unit or course of study. Naturally, there are other theme areas. A brief discussion of the theme is followed by suggestions for actions (classroom activities) that your students might use with K-12 students. I typically develop a project around one of these themes, and have students become involved in real STS project at the university or seminar level, and then have them apply what they did with students in the K-12 environment.

For example, in the figure below, a group of prospective science teachers worked in a team to investigate the effects of ozone on human health. After doing research on monitoring ozone locally (they used the Ecobadge System), and finding literature and websites to support them, they developed a poster that represented the STS work they did on ozone. In this case, a highway sign advertising effects of ozone.


Figure 6.5. This poster was one of about 6 posters developed as part of an STS project on a university campus. Working in groups, students set up a display in the lobby of the College of Education building that informed the GSU community about ground level ozone, the problems associated with increasing levels of smog, and what they can do about the problem. This was designed to help them make connections to their upcoming fall internship at two middle schools.

  • Population Growth
  • Air Quality and Atmosphere--There are many projects that have air quality activities such as GLOBE or Eco-connections.
  • Energy
  • Effects of Technological Development
  • Hazardous Substances
  • Water Resources--Shown below is a dissolved oxygen ampule kit that can be used to determine the dissolved oxygen level of streams and lakes. For a sample unit based on water resources, link to the Eco-Connections module "Testing the Waters."

Figure 6.6. These are tools that are part of Chemetrics visual test kits that used ampules to carry out a variety of water analysis tests. In this case, you see the dissolved oxygen test kit. We've used these for many years, and find them inexpensive and fairly accurate, especially when students are involved in collaborative projects with students at distant locations around the earth.

  • Utilization of Natural Resources
  • Environment

STS Curriculum Examples

There is a wide range of curriculum examples available to study and implementation. Many of these projects have websites, and students can gain further knowledge about them.

  • STS Evaluation Critieria Before you have your students examine STS curriculum examples, you might want to introduce STS evaluation criteria (p.426).
  • Curriculum examples:
    • Curriculum example: Science Education for Public Understanding (SEPUP). A middle school project designed to engage students in a study of environmental issues and content.
    • Curriculum example: ChemCom (Chemistry in the Community). ChemCom enhances science literacy by emphasizing chemistryís impact on society. It is aimed at the student who will become a citizen but not necessarily a scientist in a technological society.
    • Curriculum example: Project Learning Tree (PLT). A K-12 environmental education program.
    • Curriculum example: Eco-Connections. A collaborative project between American and Russian educators centered around environmental and global issues.

Inquiry Activity 6.4: Evaluating an STS Module or Project

You can use this inquiry activity as vehicle to have students evaluate one or more of the curriculum examples cited above. Criteria are outlined in the inquiry.


Case to Consider: STS as the Entire Science Program: Some Questions (on the Companion Webiste)

A teacher questions the STS approach on the basis of knowledge base that students might have to discuss STS issues, and of having science teachers deal with values. A powerful case for class discussion.

Case to Consider: Biased Teaching? (on the Companion Website)

A parent claims that the articles that a teacher is having students read is highly biased, and feels that the teacher is indoctrinating the students with "environmental sentimentality." What should teachers do in situations like this one?

Science Teachers Talk: How do you deal with STS issues in the classroom? (on the Companion Website)

Ask your students to discuss how they would implement STS in the classroom, and then have them read the discussion among four teachers.

Science-Teaching Literature: Education for Environmental Sustainability by David L. Haury

Haury identifies key concepts, and issues a challenge to schools and communities. You might check these websites in conjuction with this paper.

Problems and Extensions

You will find among the P and E's good examples of projects for students to complete individually or as part of a team.


You will find a variety of readings on STS; We particularly recommend Cross and Fensham: Science and the Citizen. Melbourne: Arena Publications, 2000.

On the Web

The Web will be a major resource to access STS issues, projects, and programs. We've included a number of these sites to get your students started.