Five groups of high school students worked around tables in Vielca Anglin’s science classroom on a recent afternoon at City-As-School in New York City. They had half-liter water bottles in front of them and a range of materials including pebbles, soil, rice, marbles, scouring pads and gauze. Their task: create a gravity-driven water filtration system that gets dirty water as clean as possible. It was up to them to decide what materials to use and in what order.
The lesson came five days after Hurricane Maria had pummeled Puerto Rico, when residents had started to realize the lack of access to clean water could cause a public health crisis on the island. Anglin was asking students to think and act like scientists and engineers.
“That’s what this class is about,” Anglin said. “Getting students to understand that they’re designers, that they’re engineers, and they can be a part of these real-world issues and real-world problems that are coming up.”
This type of project reflects the best intentions of the Next Generation Science Standards, which encourage teachers to enable students to learn science by doing. Drafted by representatives of K-12 education, higher education, industry and state governments between 2011 and 2013, the standards call for schools to help students build on science knowledge from one year to the next and make connections across disciplines that have historically been approached as completely separate.
The Next Generation Science Standards, adopted so far by 18 states and the District of Columbia, demand a three-dimensional approach to instruction. Each lesson should combine “practices,” or the behaviors of real scientists and engineers; “cross-cutting concepts,” which clarify connections across science disciplines and help students create a coherent view of the world based on science, and “disciplinary core ideas,” or the fundamental ideas students must know to understand a given science discipline.
Click here to read the full story in the Hechinger Report (October 11, 2017)