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)

New Arizona K-12 Science Standards Recognize Evolution

On October 22, the Arizona State Board of Education approved revised science standards, shrugging off outgoing State Superintendent Diane Douglas’ suggestion to replace all the standards with a set from a conservative college in Michigan. The science standards include edits recommended by the Arizona Science Teachers Association after an outcry over how the draft standards addressed evolution. Those edits emphasize that “The unity and diversity of organisms, living and extinct, is the result of evolution.”

Click here to read the full article featured in The Arizona Republic (October 22, 2018)

Commentary: Getting Students from Classroom to Workforce

 

In a Commentary  featured on the Herald.net, Barbara Hulit, senior vice president at Fortive Corp., and Gary Cohn, superintendent of Everett , Wash, Public Schools note the expected job growth in STEM-related fields and the importance of a strong science education to prepare students for the future workforce.

“… all students should have access to a high-quality education that prepares them to graduate high school ready for whichever career pathways they choose. To ensure this happens, Washington’s learning standards lay out what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. The High School and Beyond Plan helps students explore their interests, connect their learning to potential careers, and plan a meaningful path to complete the 24 credits required for high school graduation. We believe each of our students must also have opportunities to experience hands-on, minds-on science education.

Washington adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, which our state calls the Washington State Science Learning Standards, in 2013. These standards are based on extensive research about how students can best learn science. They are designed to make science education accessible and relevant to all students, engaging them in technology and engineering practices that help them understand the world and prepare for any number future careers.

With the standards in place, students in Everett schools, for example, are very engaged in science. They are exploring and investigating concepts such as gravity, light and the water cycle through practices that scientists and engineers use. The standards provide a high bar for the skills, knowledge and experiences students should master, while allowing local flexibility to design lessons that are relevant to students in our community.”

Click here to read the full Commentary in Herald.net (October 7, 2018)

Efforts to make science relevant to diverse populations inadvertently create divisions, study finds

Around the turn of the 20th century, U.S. educators widely considered certain populations less educated, less healthy and unprepared to be true American citizens. If asked, most might argue those practices have disappeared as social norms have changed—particularly given that many reforms today focus on equity and diversity. A University of Kansas researcher has published a study showing how the very efforts to make science relevant to diverse populations inadvertently create new divisions by relying on educational practices with unexamined colonial histories.

The Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS, are being implemented in U.S. schools with the goal of improving science relevant to the lives of diverse student populations. This aligns with broader reforms to link science education to real-world problems such as the obesity epidemic by having students from marginalized groups analyze data on their daily habits and advocate for healthier choices in their homes and communities. The standards recommend that teachers connect science to students’ everyday lives through methods like discussing the dangers of high-fructose corn syrup in order to motivate students from nondominant racial and ethnic groups. While the goal of improving science education for all students is admirable, Kirchgasler said, the reforms reflect a tendency to formulate educational and health disparities in psychological terms by assuming some children and families lack the knowledge or motivation to make informed, responsible choices. Societal explanations such as unequal access to health care, income inequality, food deserts and others tend to be overlooked.

Click here to read the full story on phys.org (September 26, 2018)

‘Science Not Fairy Tales:’ Teachers Speak Out Against Proposed Science Standards

Parents and teachers on Monday rallied outside an Arizona Board of Education meeting, and then took turns during the meeting blasting a proposal to remove references to evolution and climate change from state science standards.

A separate proposal from Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas to replace all the education standards for K-12 district and charter schools with a set developed by a private college in Michigan with ties to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos drew another round of outrage.

Before the meeting, protesters with the Secular Coalition of Arizona held up signs with phrases such as “Teach science not fairy tales” and “Science made America great, make America great again.”

Click here to read the full story from azcentral.com (September 24, 2018)

WV hasn’t externally tested SAT’s alignment to state’s science standards

The West Virginia Department of Education hasn’t yet had an external, independent study done of whether the SAT test’s “Analysis in Science” section actually measures what Mountain State students are learning in their science classrooms.

The department, nevertheless, plans to report SAT science scores to the federal government, at least for last school year.

ACT Inc., while protesting the department’s decision about a year ago to award the statewide 11th grade standardized testing bid to College Board, which produces the SAT, challenged the idea of the state using the SAT to test science. Sara Sympson, field communications director for College Board, wrote in an email Friday that “we don’t know of another state using the SAT as its statewide high school science test.”

Click here to read the full story in the Charleston Gazette Mail (September 8, 2018)