The FOSS Program design is based on learning progressions that provide students with opportunities to investigate core ideas in science in increasingly complex ways over time. FOSS starts with the intuitive ideas that primary students bring with them and provides experiences that allow students to develop more sophisticated understanding as they grow through the grades. Cognitive research tells us that learning involves individuals in actively constructing schemata to organize new information and to relate and incorporate the new understanding into established knowledge. What sets experts apart from novices is that experts in a discipline have extensive knowledge that is effectively organized into structured schemata to promote thinking. Novices have disconnected ideas about a topic that are difficult to retrieve and use. Through internal processes to establish schemata and through social processes of interacting with peers and adults, students construct understanding of the natural world and their relationship to it. The target goal for FOSS students is to know and use scientific explanations of the natural world and the designed world; to understand the nature and development of scientific knowledge and technological capabilities; and to participate productively in scientific and engineering practices.
FOSS is designed to make active learning in science engaging for teachers as well as for students. It includes these supports for teachers:
The FOSS Program design makes it appropriate for reform efforts on all scales. It reflects the core ideas to be incorporated into the next-generation science standards. It meets with the approval of science and technology companies working in collaboration with school systems, and it has demonstrated its effectiveness with diverse student and teacher populations in major urban reform efforts. The use of science notebooks and formative-assessment strategies in FOSS redefines the role of science in a school—the way that teachers engage in science teaching with one another as professionals and with students as learners, and the way that students engage in science learning with the teacher and with one another. FOSS takes students and teachers beyond the classroom walls to establish larger communities of learners.