Connecting school and community with science learning: Real world problems and school–community partnerships as contextual scaffolds*


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    Written in collaboration with the teachers of John Greenleaf Whittier Elementary: Kim Alamar, Albert Delgado, Sheila Epstein, Claudia Greene, Susan Kolian, and Martha Pedroza.


A challenge facing many schools, especially those in urban settings that serve culturally and linguistically diverse populations, is a disconnection between schools and students' home communities, which can have both cognitive and affective implications for students. In this article we explore a form of “connected science,” in which real-world problems and school-community partnerships are used as contextual scaffolds for bridging students' community-based knowledge and school-based knowledge, as a way to provide all students opportunities for meaningful and intellectually challenging science learning. The potential of these scaffolds for connected science is examined through a case study in which a team of fifth-grade teachers used the student-identified problem of pollution along a nearby river as an interdisciplinary anchor for teaching science, math, language arts, and civics. Our analysis makes visible how diverse forms of knowledge were able to support project activities, examines the consequences for student learning, and identifies the features of real-world problems and school–community partnerships that created these bridging opportunities. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 38: 878–898, 2001