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Identifying what matters: Science education, science communication, and democracy

Bruce V. Lewenstein

Many people believe that both public policy and personal action would improve with better access to “reliable knowledge about the natural world” (that thing that we often call science). Many of those people participate in science education and science communication. And yet, both as areas of practice and as objects of academic inquiry, science education and science communication have until recently remained remarkably distinct. Why, and what resources do the articles in this special issue of JRST give us for bringing together both the fields of practice and the fields of inquiry?

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Bridging science education and science communication research

Ayelet Baram-Tsabari and Jonathan Osborne

In some senses, both science education and science communication share common goals. Both seek to educate, entertain and engage the public with and about science. Somewhat surprisingly, given their common goals, they have evolved as disparate academic fields where each pays little attention to the other. The purpose of this special issue, therefore, is an attempt some form of rapprochement—to contribute to building a better awareness of what each has to contribute to the other and the value of the scholarship conducted in both fields.

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Explained in 60 Seconds: The event horizon and the fate of fish

Clementine Cheetham

Every time a physicist says the words “event horizon” a fish dies. It’s not nice and it’s not fair, but there we are.

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How science texts and hands-on explorations facilitate meaning making: Learning from Latina/o third graders

Maria Varelas, Lynne Pieper, Amy Arsenault, Christine C. Pappas and Neveen Keblawe-Shamah

In this study, we examined opportunities for reasoning and meaning making that read-alouds of children’s literature science information books and related hands-on explorations offered to young Latina/o students in an urban public school. Using a qualitative, interpretative framework, we analyzed classroom discourse and children’s writing and drawing in a 3rd grade class during five instructional days that focused on the same science topic (earthworms and their features, behaviors, habitat, etc.) and included read-aloud sessions of print and digital books on earthworms along with observations and experiments with real earthworms. We identified ways in which dialogically shared read-alouds of children’s literature science books on earthworms became tools for children’s meaning making that involved a variety of types of reasoning (causal, teleological, comparative, analogical) in the form of questions, statements, or mini-stories, and how the teacher mediated the children’s engagement in reasoning. We also identified unique opportunities that hands-on explorations offered children to extend their ideas about earthworms, sprinkle their reasoning with playfulness, imbue affect in their meaning making, exhibit sensitivity to suffering and personal connections, and consider ethical treatment of animals. The study findings highlight the synergistic relationship between informational texts and hands-on explorations and point to the significance and usefulness of incorporating both in science instruction so that we maximize the richness of children’s learning experiences by offering them multiple access points and pathways via the assets they bring to the classroom and the ones they co-construct with their teacher and peers.

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