Great Minds®: With PhD Science™, Foundational Knowledge Is Fundamental

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A 2019 National Charter Schools Conference sponsor post.

Driving along the highway, you see a wind turbine and know it’s generating electricity from wind. That’s energy transformation, but could you explain how it works?

That depends on how you learned the concept. If it was by rote memorization, you will probably struggle to explain energy transformation: Memorizing does not build knowledge.

PhD Science™ is designed to build foundational knowledge for a lifetime. It was written to inspire students to wonder about the world and empower them to make sense of it. Even the name reflects that the concepts are worthy of study and build lasting knowledge that students can build on.

PhD Science students develop science knowledge through hands-on investigations, understanding concepts through experiences before explaining what they’ve learned in words.  Students drive the learning as they observe, question, investigate, and model, and as new knowledge answers some questions while revealing others. For example, the Energy Module anchor phenomenon is Windmills at Work, and students seek to answer the Essential Question: How do windmills change wind to light?

As students work to answer the Essential Question, they build enduring knowledge and understanding of energy. PhD Science inspires curiosity about windmills by asking students to reflect on artwork by Piet Mondrian. As they share what they notice and wonder about the art, they begin to ask investigative questions. They construct a physical model of a windmill that lights a bulb as they explore energy, developing along the way questions that they need to answer to explain how a windmill turns wind into light. They also create a sketch of the model they’ll revise as their knowledge and understanding of energy evolves. Teachers introduce terms such as energy transfer only after students have investigated and grasped the concept, helping to build lasting knowledge. They then read the true story of a boy who designed an electricity generating windmill for his village and apply their new knowledge to design their own signaling device.

By engaging in the science, PhD Science™ students do more than repeat a definition. They leave rote memorization behind in favor of something much better: deep conceptual understanding.


Pam Goodner is chief academic officer, science, at Great Minds®. She leads a team of teacher–writers developing PhD Science™, the newest curriculum from the creator of Eureka Math®/EngageNY Math, English language arts curriculum Wit & Wisdom®, and Geodes®, a library of books for emerging readers.

Great Minds® was a sponsor of the 2019 National Charter Schools Conference.

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