Science Literacy: what is it?

The term “Science Literacy” is thrown around a lot in the news, in education school classes, and at faculty development meetings, but what does it really mean?

To me, science literacy means three things.

A high school graduate who is literate in science: 

1. Knows how to ask questions!  A science literate graduate has enough background to be able to read the NYTimes Science section and understand it enough to ask deeper questions about the science described there. A science literate graduate can read the basic details of a scientific study and be able to recognize flaws, point out further questions that need answering, or understand limitations within that study. One of the most important things students need to be able to do is QUESTION! Why? Why not? What if…? Why didn’t the scientist try this? Who sponsored this study? Is this study’s evidence convincing?

2. Can read information from graphs and data tables and can point out possible trends.  Being able to analyze data in many different forms is an essential skill in so many fields!  This is not only a science skill but an essential job skill.

3. Can decipher details in a complex diagram. Think of a food web diagram, a water cycle diagram, or a chemical equation. A science literate high school graduate should be able to point out which are the products and which are the reactions in a reaction or what organism eats what organism in a particular ecosystem.

In an upcoming post, I will be writing about classroom ideas for improving science literacy, so stay tuned!

How would you describe “Science Literacy”?  What elements do you include in your lesson plans to help students develop science literacy?

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