Education prof’s new book redefines science curriculum

Xavier Fazio’s lifelong love of science led him to a career as a science and environmental science teacher and teacher educator for kindergarten to Grade 12 (K-12) students. Now a Professor in Brock’s Faculty of Education, he’s working on research to help fellow educators tackle climate change in science classes.

His latest book, Science Curriculum for the Anthropocene, offers a framework for rethinking the way researchers, educators and policy-makers develop K-12 science curriculum in light of the ecological crises facing communities around the world.

“I’m hoping that it will change the way we think about developing science curriculum and, more importantly, how we re-orient our curriculum to the Anthropocene,” says Fazio, who is an affiliate member of Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre.

Brock researchers are part of global efforts to confirm a new epoch in Earth’s geological time scale called the Anthropocene by examining evidence of human activities preserved in the geologic record. While Earth is officially in the Holocene, the scientific community has identified the mid-20th century as being the start of the Anthropocene. 

Fazio’s goal with the book is to provide a hopeful perspective on the potential for science to play a leading role in humanity’s response to climate change and related ecological crises in the Anthropocene.

He believes that work starts in the classroom with science education that helps all students become more scientifically literate citizens, regardless of the pathways they take in school or their future careers, because each of them will play a role in the way their community handles climate challenges.

“We have an opportunity to re-orient our learners to the environmental realities that we currently face and even realities that we cannot yet forecast,” says Fazio. “I think building hope is critical for youth and I think the science curriculum offers a place to do that. It’s not the only place, but it is a place to start.”

A central pillar of Fazio’s framework is to weave sustainability science throughout the entire science curriculum and to put sustainability perspectives at the forefront of educators’ and policy-makers’ thinking about curriculum in general.

Rooting science curriculum in communities is another pillar of Fazio’s proposed approach. Fazio draws on complexity and systems theories to examine ways teachers and curriculum developers can navigate the complex structures of classrooms, schools and school boards in their local contexts and environments.  

“I think teachers will be surprised. They have a lot more flexibility than they realize, but it can be easy to get caught up in the system of what you’ve done before in the school or what has been done in the school district before.”

Science Curriculum for the Anthropocene is the first in a two-volume set, with the second scheduled for release later this year. The book is informed by Fazio’s ongoing Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council funded research on connecting science education to local communities.

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