The CUNY HSE Curriculum Framework--Science: Matter & Energy

This framework aims to help students learn basic science content knowledge while developing their reading, writing, and analytical skills.

Rebecca Leece
Eric Appleton
Erna Golden
Shirley Miller
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
The City University of New York (CUNY)
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages

New versions of the high school equivalency (HSE) test place a greater emphasis on content knowledge in basic science concepts than previous versions of the GED. In order to do well, test-takers will have to use background knowledge in conjunction with strategic reading and test-taking skills. This science curriculum map is intended to help students develop foundational content knowledge in concepts in matter and energy that underlie all of the physical sciences.

This curriculum is intended to help students learn basic science content knowledge while developing their reading, writing, and analytical skills. The curriculum is intended for use by teachers who don’t have a background in science. We provide background information for each lesson and resources for more information. This curriculum may also be used as a separate introduction to science for students who are transitioning into college to study majors that require science: nursing, dental technician, engineering, radiology, etc.

Some of the big ideas explored include:

  • How can science help explain recognizable phenomena in the world?
  • How do we evaluate scientific responses to questions about the observable world? Examples include: What causes lightning? Why do helium balloons float? Where do the beads of water on the outside of a cold drink come from? Why is the ocean salty?
  • What are our common misconceptions about how the world works and how can we straighten them out?

The subjects that make up and connect the daily lessons are rooted in essential questions. Each lesson is linked to previous lessons through embedded review, so that students build a network of ideas and knowledge. Opportunities for reflection on how each lesson fits into previous understandings (or doesn’t fit and requires a restructuring of understanding) are also built in.

What the experts say

This is a very well written science curriculum developed for adult education instructors without science background. The lessons are clear, appropriate, and interesting. Adult education instructors interested in teaching science could pick this up and start planning very easily.

This is an excellent model for lesson planning and also an excellent curriculum itself. It has very comprehensive and clear scaffolding for teachers, who are presumed to not have extensive knowledge of scientific concepts. This seems as if would be very non-threatening to those who may feel unprepared to teach science, and provides good support to teach the concepts successfully. One support for teachers is an introduction to each lesson that explains the overall goals for not just the content in the lesson, but also for the ways in which it is meant to encourage student engagement and confidence. There are also very useful notes along the way to help with logistics of implementing the lesson plan and background knowledge to help respond to questions and discussions. There are also resources for learning more about the topics addressed in the curriculum.

The style of teaching presented in the resource is very much in keeping with accepted best practices of adult education. The activities are designed to promote a lot of engagement, discussion and interaction of students, and focus on using their own questions and past experience to guide the learning. There is also an emphasis on synthesizing known and recently learned concepts with the new ones being presented along the way.

This curriculum is very clear that it is “meant to connect the often abstract study of science with concrete, recognizable phenomena relevant to students’ lives.” And it presents a realistic and important view of what science is. The authors express the “….hope that this curriculum offers a more humane view of the field—that science is just the (often flawed and limited) current understanding of how things work in our world.”

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