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Ontario updates elementary science curriculum

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce spins the wheel on a gravity simulator during a photo-op at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto on Tuesday March 8, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO — Ontario elementary students will be taught more hands-on science, technology and engineering skills starting in September as part of a new curriculum unveiled Tuesday.

The curriculum will reflect many advancements in science and technology since the last update in 2007, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said.

"Think about all the changes and emerging technologies we have seen, such as the development of smartphones, self-driving vehicles and other forms of artificial intelligence," he said at a press conference. 

"As the economy changes, so must our curriculum to ensure students are learning the skills they need to help them gain access to good-paying jobs, to ensure they have a competitive advantage upon their graduation here in Ontario."

The new curriculum will take effect in September, and there will also be a new, destreamed Grade 9 science course that includes exploring careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and related skilled trades.

Officials say new STEM learning will include Grade 6 students designing and testing devices such as flying machines, and Grade 8 students designing a system that replicates a conveyor belt.

As well, students starting in Grade 1 will apply coding – which was recently added to the elementary math curriculum – and learn about environmental protection, a new section in which students will consider solutions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The new curriculum also updates existing sections such as life systems, matter and energy, structures and mechanisms, and Earth and space systems.

Officials say 130 expectations were removed from the curriculum to make room for the new material, but they say doing so eliminates redundancies in the previous curriculum and that no important learning is being lost.

Teachers will have a professional activity day next school year specifically focused on STEM learning, officials said.

The president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario said the union sent requested feedback to the Education Ministry on March 3 about "modernization in education, including considerations for revisions to the elementary Science and Technology curriculum."

"Five days later, we have an announcement. We’re left wondering if anyone at the ministry considered our input," Karen Brown said in an emailed statement. 

Brown was also critical of the "compressed timeline" given for school boards to instruct teachers on the new curriculum.

"The Ford government continues to demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of how school boards and schools operate," she said.

-With files from Holly McKenzie-Sutter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2022.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

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