How One California School District is Leading the Way on New Science Standards

As schools nationwide take on the most comprehensive overhaul of science standards in 20 years, a school district in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles has become a pace-setter.  Without relying on outside funding, or major grant money, Torrance Unified has trained more than 500 teachers and has unveiled the new standards to all 24,000 students in the district.

By devoting thousands of hours to teacher training, the district has shown teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade how to explain scientific phenomenon in a new way to their students — by letting the students discover the answers on their own, instead of memorizing facts from a textbook.

“We feel science is the center of a good education, so this has been a priority for us from the beginning. But there are fundamental things we’ve done that all districts can do,” said Amy Argento, one of three classroom science teachers the district assigned to train their colleagues. “What we’ve done is replicable anywhere. Any district can do this.”

 

The new standards, called Next Generation Science Standards, were introduced nationally in 2013, in response to concerns among science educators, political leaders and many others that K-12 science instruction in the United States trails behind many other industrialized countries.

So far, 19 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards, California was among the first. Stressing hands-on projects and critical thinking, the new standards represent a significant shift for most teachers — not just a change in subject matter, but to a new way of teaching, with less emphasis on textbooks and classroom lectures and more on open-ended scientific inquiry.

Click here to read the full story in Ed Source (December 10, 2017)

 

 

North Dakota Teachers to Rewrite Academic Standards

The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction is soliciting help from educators across the state in rewriting standards for science, health, the arts and early learning.

The new standards will affect grades K-12, as well as pre-K for early learning guidelines. These instructional standards haven’t been reviewed in several years, including health standards that are nearly a decade old. Earlier this year, DPI approved new math and English standards.

The process for rewriting content standards for science, health, the arts and early learning will begin early next year and will continue through the fall, according to a news release from DPI.

Four content committees will begin rewriting the standards early next year. Independent citizens committees will then review and comment on the proposed standards. There will be public comment periods after each draft of the new standards is completed.

There is no definitive date for when the standards will go into effect.

Science, health, the arts and early learning educators can apply for positions on the committees at www.nd.gov/dpi/SchoolStaff/Standards.

Members of the content committees will be paid $225 per day, plus lodging and meals. School districts and early learning programs are eligible for substitute teacher pay. Applications are due by 3 p.m. Dec. 12.

Bismarck Tribune, Nov. 27, 2017

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.co

Barlow STEM chairman promotes new science curriculum

Next Generation Science Standards is the new science curriculum being taught at Joel Barlow High School (Easton, CT).

NGSS is a multi-state effort to create new education standards that are challenging to students.

With NGSS, the students, rather than the teachers, are the ones who are actively discovering.

At the Region 9 Board of Education meeting on Nov. 16, J.T. Schemm, STEM department chairman, presented the advantages of NGSS.

“In the classroom, we are looking for students to be the discoverers for the first time,” he said. “Good teachers don’t tell you what you are going to see, the students tell them what they will see.”

According to Board of Education Chairman Melinda Irwin, a major component of NGSS is three-dimensional learning, “which shifts the focus of the science classroom to environments where students use disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts with the scientific practices to explore, examine and explain how and why phenomena occur and to design solutions to problems,” she said.

Science classes in Region 9 are becoming more hands-on, as teachers strive to prepare students for the science, technology, engineering and mathematics needed for jobs in the future.

“There really is a big push for STEM education across the board, because the jobs of tomorrow and today require a really solid foundation,” Schemm said.

He explained that NGSS is a way of looking at science differently from how teachers and school administrators of past decades viewed science.

“Learning science by doing science is the big issue here,” Schemm said. “It’s asking students, What do you know? What do you observe?”

Click here to read the full story in the Easton Courier (November 23, 2017)

Bringing Science to Life

Ramirez Thomas Elementary School teacher Rita Rios-Baca’s first-graders let her know in one collective shout what they thought of her plan to use bubbles to study wind patterns as part of a Los Alamos National Foundation project that brings science into public school classrooms.

“Hooray!” they screamed in unison as they readied their science kits and notebooks under the watchful eye of Rios-Baca and school Principal Loretta Booker.

Within minutes, they were outside the south-side school, blowing bubbles and observing the way they moved with the wind — sometimes north, sometimes south and sometimes right into their own faces.

 They were playing science detectives, in a sense: talking in groups about what they had witnessed and making notes plotting out the trajectory of the bubbles and how that correlated to the way the grass, bushes and tree limbs moved in response to the wind.

It was part of an effort to provide a hands-on approach to learning that makes them excited about a topic that a lot of students may see as boring or too technical or challenging.

“For me it brings science to life,” said Booker, who used the foundation science kits as a kindergarten teacher at Salazar Elementary School a few years ago.

The foundation is celebrating its 20th year supporting public schools with science curriculum and kits at the K-6 level through an $80 million endowment. Each grade level at each school gets two kits — one revolving around physical science and one involving earth science. The foundation gives teachers four days of professional development every summer on the program, paying the teachers for their time. It also offers ongoing classes during the school year on Friday afternoons.

Click here to read the full story in the Santa Fe New Mexican (November 26, 2017)

Fizz! Pop! Bang! Teachers find new science standards fun, but costly

 

With their emphasis on hands-on experiments, California’s new science standards have turned classrooms into noisy, messy laboratories.

That’s been popular with students and teachers who say it’s a more effective way to learn science than studying textbooks and memorizing facts, but the cost of all those underwater robots and exploding chemicals has left some teachers wondering how they can successfully implement the standards with ever-restricting budgets.

“I love the new standards, I really do. But it’s so expensive, I just don’t see how it’s going to happen,” said Laura Ruiz, a science teacher at Hollenbeck Middle School in Los Angeles Unified. “All of us teachers are spending hundreds of dollars a year of our own money to purchase supplies. Is there a cheap way to teach these standards? I’m trying to find one, but I just don’t think so.”

The new K-12 standards, called the Next Generation Science Standards, were approved by the California State Board of Education in 2013 and are gradually rolling out in districts across the state. All schools are expected to have fully implemented the new standards by spring 2019, when the state gives its first official assessments.

Hundreds of schools have already switched to the new standards, which are intended to give students a deeper understanding of scientific concepts by conducting as many as three or four science experiments a week.

But even the simplest science experiments cost money. Vinegar and baking soda for 150 middle-schoolers to make their own volcanoes costs at least $50. For a lesson on thermal energy, calcium chloride, ammonium nitrate and plastic baggies for 150 students to make their own hand-warmers can cost at least $65.

Click here to read the full story in Ed Source (November 26, 2017)

 

Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation Brings Science to Classrooms

A huge warehouse in Chimayo holds a treasure trove – boxes filled with materials needed to teach young students lessons about energy, matter, or other science topics.

Operated by the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Foundation, a nonprofit with programs fostering educational opportunities in communities in the shadow of the national laboratory in Los Alamos, the 7-year-old program offers science education modules or “kits” for northern New Mexico elementary classrooms.

And, they deliver.

LANL Foundation officials provided a tour of the warehouse earlier this week to representatives of Sens. Tom Udall, D-NM, and Martin Heinrich, D-NM. The tour offered a ground-floor view of the Inquiry Science Education Consortium, which includes providing professional development for the hundreds of teachers who receive the modules or kits, twice a year.

Click here to read the full story in The Los Alamos Monitor Online (November 13, 2017)

Iowa Schools Partners With Community College to Teach Sixth-Graders Chemistry

For at least five weeks, a portion of Lincoln Intermediate sixth-graders has been learning chemistry through a variety of hands-on activities.

“Doing is learning,” said Lisa Hugi, a teacher at Lincoln Intermediate in Mason City.

Hugi’s 90 sixth-grade students are part of a “pilot project” being done in collaboration with Nikae Perkinson, Natural Sciences Division chairwoman and a chemistry instructor at North Iowa Area Community College, and her college students, to prepare the school for new Iowa science standards required to be in place by the 2018-19 school year.

The state’s new standards are based on the Next Generation Science Standards, learning expectations for grades K-12 developed by 26 states, including Iowa, to equip students’ for college and 21st-century careers.

Under the new standards, which were approved by the Iowa State Board of Education in 2015, sixth-grade teachers will teach their students chemistry for the first time.

“We’re gearing up (for next year),” Perkinson said.

Click here to read the full story in the Globe Gazette (November 14, 2017)

Congratulations to New Mexico for Adopting the NGSS

On November 14, the New Mexico Public Education Dept filed official records indicating the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards as well as 6 additional STEM standards for K-12 students. With the adoption, NM joins 19 other states and the District of Columbia as official adoption states.

NSTA congratulates the science teachers, scientists, education leaders, environmental advocates, and business and community members in New Mexico who stood up for science to ensure the adoption of these standards.

Click here to access the New Mexico standards

Click here to read a story by the National Center for Science Education (November 14, 2017)

Fires, floods, hurricanes: Teachers turn natural disasters into science and history lessons

he fires may be out in the Wine Country, but they’re still a daily topic in many California classrooms.

At Design Tech High, a charter school in Burlingame that’s affiliated with Oracle, students are analyzing the science behind the Tubbs Fire that raged through Sonoma County in October and creating blueprints for how the destroyed neighborhoods can rebuild in a way that could minimize impacts from the next fire.

The crash course in sustainability is an example of how, amidst the devastation and human suffering, teachers are using wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters to further students’ understanding of science, history and social studies.

Click here to read the full story in Ed Source (November 14, 2017)

 

Next Generation Science Standards Program Underway

In order for students to better observe nature, Chester Elementary School is embarking on the Next Generation Science Standards program, which promotes outdoor learning through hands-on experiences. The elementary school is serving as a model for other schools in Plumas Unified School District.

The California Department of Education adopted the new Outdoor Core curriculum to update and improve the framework for educating students to appreciate science-literacy in an outdoor setting, where they learn to understand how to look more closely at nature and to express wonder at the world around them.

The new standards program is designed to augment classroom work by allowing kids to leave the classroom and enter the field to see life forms in their natural environment.

Click here to read the full story in Plumas County News (Nov. 11, 2017)