Workforce Skills

Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS)

To ensure students develop the skills necessary for careers in science, in addition to learning about Arctic weather and climate, the Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) competencies and foundational skills identified by the United States Department of Labor are targeted throughout the Arctic Climate Modeling Program curriculum.

The five SCANS-identified competencies and a three-part foundation of skills outlined in Figures 2 and 3 together illustrate the personal qualities and know-how needed for successful job performance.


Skill-Building in the Arctic Climate Modeling Program

Basic skills, thinking skills, and personal qualities are the core foundation of scientific inquiry, and are used throughout the Arctic Climate Modeling Program at all grade levels. In the middle and upper grades, the five competencies are also targeted.

To encourage the development of basic skills (reading, writing, arithmetic, listening, and speaking) and personal qualities (responsibility, self esteem, sociability, self management, integrity/honesty), students are asked to work together on both short-term and long-term projects, respond to prompts through reading and writing, listen to others respectfully during discussion and presentation (peers and elders), make their own presentations, and complete mathematics and arithmetic problems as they relate to the science.


Critical Thinking Activities

Critical Thinking Activities embedded into many classroom lessons specifically encourage the acquisition of SCANS foundational skills. Critical Thinking Activities provide students with practice in all foundational skills, but feature thinking skills most prominently.

Critical Thinking Activities are research-based prompts for classroom discussion. Students are asked to share knowledge, think creatively, visualize, solve problems, apply new knowledge, explain orally to a partner and the class, and defend their reasoning. Thinking skills (thinking creatively, making decisions, solving problems, visualizing, knowing how to learn, and reasoning) are practiced here and in other parts of the curriculum. In each lesson, developing individual responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, self-management, and integrity, are all encouraged.


Middle and Upper-Level Curriculum Increases Worker Competence

In middle and upper-level lessons, the competencies are addressed more specifically. Lessons build skills relevant to science.

For example, when students are asked to design and conduct an experiment, as in the lessons “The Great Heat Escape” and “Keep It Cool,” they are guided through the process, allocating resources (time, materials, and work-space), building interpersonal skills through team-work, productively using information (acquiring and evaluating information, organizing and maintaining information, interpreting and communicating information, and using computers to process information), and using technology effectively and appropriately (selecting technology, applying technology to task).


SCANS Competencies Integrated at All Levels

At all levels, the curriculum asks students to call on and develop a range of skills, often in combination, in ways that mimic how scientists really work.

For example, the lessons “Weather Report Chart” and “Weather Observation Journal,” help to develop the information competencies by asking students to create forms to collect data and evaluate information. Students use computer spreadsheets and databases to process information, as in the lessons “Basic Excel” and “How Oceans Affect Climate.”

Interpersonal competencies are addressed by asking students to work cooperatively, as in the lesson “Seasons.”

The Systems competencies, needed for understanding complex inter-relationships, are developed in such lessons as “Introduction to the Carbon Cycle” where students apply new knowledge to understand their local environment and “The Water Cycle Game” where students model the path that water takes through Earth.

Technology competencies are encouraged in many lessons, using varied technology to accomplish tasks, as in the lesson “Viewing Sea Ice with GINA,” where students study satellite images of sea ice and wind conditions in the Bering sea, and the lesson “Digital Elevation Models,” where students use ImageJ to create a 3D representation of a digital elevation model to explore how changes in glacier elevation might look 100 years from now.


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Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills. 2009, January 15. Retrieved July 27, 2009, from United States Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration website:

Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills. 1991, June. What work requires of schools: A SCANS report for America 2000. Retrieved July 28, 2009, from United States Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration website: