Have you have read a scientific journal article? Unless you have a background in science, you probably haven’t. However, on an almost daily basis news headlines proclaim the findings of new studies. The reporter has taken the time to translate the information into bite-sized pieces of information the general public can understand. However, you often see a much different picture regarding the results of the study if you read the actual journal. (For instance, the results are rarely as statistically significant as news articles portray.) Believe it or not, journalists can be biased.
Or think about some of the scientific greats: Copernicus, Newton, Einstein. Do you know how they shared their ideas, discoveries, and theories? Through writing and publishing books. While these scientists made initial observations, they kept journals of notes, diagrams, and calculations. All of this is part of literacy. Without language, it would be difficult to fully communicate science.
My point is, we don’t leave reading and writing at the door when a student enters science class. We can’t leave literacy instruction outside the doors of the science classroom either. Will the texts we read and words we write look the same as a creative writing or language arts class? Probably not. Our focus is on technical writing, journal articles, and nonfiction. However, in order to be truly literate in society, or students don’t just need to be able to read and write generally. They also need to be able to analyze and interpret scientific information to determine if the data supports the conclusion. Students also need to be able to interpret data they have collected, draw their own conclusions, and communicate these results. Given the special requirements of scientific literacy, it is important that science instructors also incorporate literacy consistently in the classroom.