Teachers Back New MN Climate Education Standards, But Topic’s Still Hot

Kay Nowell is a veteran science teacher in the St. Michael-Albertville public schools. Still, she feels the need to tread lightly when the topic of climate change comes up in her classroom. Despite the facts, teaching climate change can bring a political backlash from parents and others who doubt the science.

“That’s always in the back of my mind,” she said, “because I want to teach kids, but I don’t want to push that envelope where I’m going to get a parent phone call.”

It’s one reason why Nowell and teachers across the state are welcoming proposed science education standards that would, for the first time in Minnesota, teach that humans are the primary cause of climate change.

While some educators already teach about humans’ impact on the climate, they say writing it into state standards would be added muscle if they face pushback from students or parents. And it would help ensure the topic gets taught.

“The more we can get it to be the norm, the easier my job would be because then it’s like, well I’m teaching what is required here because it’s been proven,” said Nowell, a high school teacher. “I’m not on my own.”

The Minnesota science education standards get an update every 10 years. A committee of K-12 educators, higher education representatives and community members create and revise the standards during a monthslong review and approval process.

Once they’re in place, teachers’ coursework must align with statewide standards, although individual educators and districts still have final say in how they present concepts to students.

Members of the public have opportunities to comment before the final standards take effect. So far, there has been a mix of reactions to the new climate change standards, said Josh Collins, the Minnesota Department of Education’s director of communications. No staff from the department sit on the committee writing the standards.

Click here to read the transcript of the piece that ran on Minnesota Public Radio (December 11, 2018)

 

 

West Ed Explores How California Districts are Approaching NGSS Implementation

West Ed’s Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning has unpacked the landscape of California State Standards implementation by examining key drivers of implementation such as funding, professional learning, and instructional shifts. Now, a new report looks across those domains to explore how districts are approaching implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards.

FINDING 1: Districts report a disconnect between the timeline for NGSS and capacity to implement. They’re constrained by a complexity of factors including inadequate instructional resources, and lack of bandwidth in the midst of ongoing math and ELA challenges.

FINDING 2: Half of all district leaders they spoke with have not begun allocating funds toward NGSS implementation. An additional quarter of district leaders report still being in the planning stages for funding NGSS implementation.

FINDING 3: District leader perceptions suggest that teachers may not yet have had time to benefit from the training and practice needed to master the instructional shifts demanded by the Next Generation Science Standards.

Click here to read the full report.

 

 

Teacher Lara Minnear Sparks Curiosity in Creekside Science Students

In Zeeland, Michigan, teacher Lara Minnear knows science class is about so much more than memorizing the facts about the water cycle, climate change and Newton’s laws. It’s about curiosity and inquisitiveness. In her class, she encourages a “frontloading culture,” encouraging students to step up as leaders in the classroom and think and act more like scientists instead of just memorizing basic facts. That’s also the mentality behind the Next Generation Science Standards, which were adopted by the state of Michigan in 2015. Minnear has been one of the leaders at Zeeland in implementing new curriculum to meet those standards.

Click here to read the full article in the Holland Sentinel (December 3, 2018)

Developing Critical Thinking Skills Through STEM

 

Critical thinking skills have become a top priority over recent years. Educators and employers are well aware of the importance of being able to really think, rather than just memorizing knowledge and procedures. The Next Generation Science Standards recognize this, and schools are switching direction to better meet students’ needs and prepare them for their future.

STEM education, an approach that integrates science, technology, engineering, and math to tackle real-world problems through hands-on activities, has been shown to have great benefits for children’s development. A key part of this is its role in developing critical thinking skills.

What exactly is critical thinking? It involves looking deeper, and not just accepting information at face value. It requires independence of thought, consideration of alternative viewpoints, and creativity. In Bloom’s taxonomy, it corresponds to the higher order thinking skills of analysis, evaluation, and synthesis. A critical thinker will ask questions, make connections, and find new ways to apply their understanding.

Click here to read the full story in the Pasadena Now. (November 26, 2018)

Minnesota Proposes Teaching Climate Change as Human-Caused

Minnesota’s draft science education standards include language that would require state students be taught that climate change is a human-caused phenomenon — the first time in Minnesota such guidelines would finger human activity as the driver behind global warming.

If approved, the standards would take effect next school year. The department posted the draft on Nov. 10 and has been holding hearings around the state over the past week.

Final approval would come in May 2019.

Click here to read the full story in MPR News (November 21, 2018)

Science Unplugged

Wyoming Junior High seventh-graders recently worked in groups and presented plans for living off the grid. With a limited budget and resources, they devised windmills, water wheels and generators – methods to keep the lights on without hooking up to an external energy source. Included in their presentations about the devices and how they work were concepts such as electrical force, hydroelectricity, energy transfer, potential energy and kinetic energy.

The students were completing a unit within the MiSTAR curriculum, which is aligned with Next Generation Science Standards, a set of teaching guidelines for kindergarten through 12th-graders outlined in “A Framework for K-12 Science Education.”

NGSS tasks students to redesign, rebuild and tweak projects as many times as it takes, and to explore open-ended questions. Wyoming Junior High started using the MiSTAR curriculum as a pilot program last school year.

The approach challenges students to think deeply, McSorley said. It’s taught sans textbook, relying on Chromebooks, notebooks and experimentation through hands-on projects. Vocabulary is taught by embedding it in discussion, but not as a list of definitions to memorize.

Click here to read the full story on the School News Network (November 13, 2018)

California Approved Nearly 30 Science Textbooks. But Are They Truly Aligned to Standards?

California has selected nearly 30 textbooks purportedly aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards, a move that will likely affect the science curriculum marketplace, but leaves lingering questions about alignment and quality in a time when educators are struggling to put the complicated standards into action.

Nearly all of the major publishers put forth a series for California’s adoption—even Pearson, which plans to exit the curriculum market—as well as small, homegrown publishers, and others that can trace their origins back to National Science Foundation funding back in the 1990s.

Click here to read the full story in Education Week (November 9, 2018) registration required

Lack of Qualified Geologists Brings Attention to High School Science Standards

The field of earth science, or geoscience, is expanding, but there aren’t enough people qualified for careers in the field. A main reason cited for the lack of qualified professionals is due to common perception that earth science classes taught at a high school level are remedial.

 

Some are hoping that the Next Generation Science Standards, to be implemented by the end of 2019, will encourage Iowa high schools to give a greater emphasis to geoscience courses.

Click here to listen to the story by Iowa Public Radio (November 2, 2018)

Issues Arise in Teaching New Science Standards in New Mexico

Advocates of a set of science standards for public schools cheered when the New Mexico Public Education Department agreed after some contention and debate to initiate those recommendations starting this year.

But the harsh reality of adopting the standards seemed to set in this week when the Legislative Education Study Committee heard from a trio of experts concerned about the speed in which educators must move on the curriculum.

Those three science standards proponents painted a picture of too much work without enough time or money to do it correctly.

“We have a time-line issue,” Stan Rounds, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition of Education Leaders, told the committee members. “We’ve got to get serious about this as we move in.”

Debra Thrall, a board member of the New Mexico Science Teachers Association and one of the leaders of a program to introduce teachers to the new standards, said “a sea change” is needed in funding for the initiative.

 

Click here to read the full article in the Santa Fe New Mexican (October 23, 2018)

Want To Keep Students Engaged? Ask, Don’t Tell

When we think back to our time in school, the teachers who stick out are the ones who actively engaged us in our learning. New research suggests that those teachers are the minority, but they don’t have to be.

Active learning. Also called hands-on, problem-based, experiential, or student-driven learning—this method is helping students strengthen their abilities to make observations, collect, analyze and synthesize information, and draw conclusions using problem-solving skills. In addition to building skills, research shows that inquiry-based instruction generates the “interest and excitement” needed to set students up for a lifetime of curiosity and self-driven learning, the hallmarks of success in the new economy. Whatever you call it, this kind of learning emphasizes the students’ central role in education and sets them up to drive their own development through exploration of real-world challenges and problems.

Click here to read the full story by Talia Milgrom-Elcott in Forbes Magazine (October 23, 2018)