The scope of the science curriculum is broad, involving relationships, processes and systems for most aspects of our world. Teachers may focus on the content that is important for a specific grade level, but not be fully aware of how it is connected to curriculum and instruction in other grades.
The National Science Education Standards developed by the National Research Council provide a framework of the curriculum and national and state benchmarks outline the curriculum progression across grade levels. These tools are useful but the units and concepts do not provide an easy way to trace the curriculum sequence.
Educators and curriculum developers have made efforts to illustrate the sequence of "big ideas" to be covered in the science curriculum. The early work of the Project 2061, American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Research Council led to the development of strand maps. Strand maps differ from concept maps in that they illustrate a sequence of ideas and skills, while concept maps illustrate a picture of student understandings or overall curriculum coverage.
Three examples of strand maps were developed by Myra Thayer and Don Cammiso, teachers at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Fairfax Virginia County Schools. These are not intended to be complete or indicate all of the curriculum connections but rather to illustrate a useful tool for facilitating curriculum planning, instruction and classroom assessment.
A well developed collection of strand maps has recently been published by Project 2061, American Association for the Advancement of Science that is entitled Atlas of Science Literacy.
Try these out and consider how you can use them.