In the Classroom: Students Learn to Weather the Storm in Science

A fan sat in front of Middletown Middle School sixth-grader Morgan Speirs, slightly blowing her blond hair as she held a fake microphone.

“There’s a hurricane here in Ocean City, and winds are reaching more than 75 miles per hour,” she said, recording a mock news report for her class about a hurricane in Ocean City.

Morgan and her partner, Addie Betro, used Flipgrid, a student engagement video recording software, to record the news report that explains how technology can be used to mitigate the effects of a hurricane.

After Morgan and Addie record their video, they post it for other students, who log in to watch the videos and offer critiques.

“Having them watch each other’s videos creates a positive discourse that allows them to engage and bounce ideas off of each other,” said Middletown Middle School sixth-grade teacher Stacey Morrissey.

Under the Next Generation Science Standards, which Maryland adopted in 2013 but didn’t begin full statewide implementation until this school year, students are required to “analyze and interpret data on natural disasters, such as floods, hurricanes or volcanic eruptions, to forecast future catastrophic events and understand how the development of technologies is used to mitigate those effects.”


Click here to read the full story in the Frederick News-Post (March 9, 2018)

North Idaho Schools Cut Through Climate Debate by Teaching Kids to Think Like Scientists

Somewhere in the process of digging down through 7 feet of snow near the top of a mountain, measuring the snowpack and jotting down numbers, Cheyenne Kiecker discovered something that, for her, felt impossible: Maybe she does like science after all.

In February, Kiecker and her classmates studied the snow at Lookout Pass in North Idaho. She learned how the snow impacts the runoff into streams and rivers and lakes, how it affects the fish and the spring foliage, how it changes the wildfire season. And she’s learned that in recent decades, the snowpack in the very spot she and her classmates dug into has trended downward.

“It was really interesting to think about how the snow I was looking at impacts everything I deal with on a daily basis,” Kiecker says. “I never thought about these kinds of things.”

The field trip that brought nearly 150 Timberlake High School students up to Lookout Pass is part of a yearlong project that teaches science education in eight different North Idaho schools. It’s called “The Confluence Project,” an education model developed by University of Idaho graduate students several years ago. Today, more than 300 students in area high schools participate, learning about water-science education from the natural environment surrounding them.

And in a state where some politicians have argued human-caused climate change shouldn’t be taught in schools, the project has given students the chance to discover it for themselves.

“The intent of this program was to show students science,” says Jim Ekins, an educator for University of Idaho Extension who helps coordinate the project. “As they become more science literate, it’s a whole lot easier to understand the data that supports anthropogenic climate change.”

Click here to read the full story in the Inlander (March 8, 2018)

Maine Department of Education Seeks Public Input on Science Standards

As part of the scheduled periodic review of the Maine Learning Results, the Maine Department of Education is seeking public comments regarding the current science standards.

A public meeting is planned in Houlton Wednesday, Feb. 28, from 4-6 p.m. Other hearings will be held in Augusta and Westbrook.

The science standards are based on the National Research Council’s 1996 National Science Education Standards and include both processes (ways scientists investigate and communicate about the natural world) and bodies of knowledge (concepts, principles, facts, theories). Technology includes the design process and the study of technological tools and their effects on society.

Click here to read the full story in The County (Feb. 24, 2018)

Idaho Schools to Adopt New Science Standards

According to the Associated Press, after three years of resistance at the GOP-dominant Statehouse, Idaho schools are implementing a new slate of robust science standards.

The Senate Education Committee on Thursday (Feb. 22, 2018) approved adopting the updated science standards after little debate.

“I think it’s important to recognize this content has been well vetted by our teachers, we’ve had public hearings on this information,” said Sen. Janie Ward-Engleking, a Democrat from Boise. “So it’s very important to recognize that these are the professionals of our field and it’s very important to adopt them in their entirety.”

The low-strife energy surrounding the decision stands out in comparison to the years of contested debate led by some Republican lawmakers who had tried to amend the proposed standards over concerns about references to global warming and the origin of the universe.

Click here to read the full story by the Associated Press (Feb. 22, 2018)

PBS Program Explores Efforts to Downplay Teaching of Climate Change

Teaching climate change in schools is a hot-button issue in a number of states, including Idaho and New Mexico, where lawmakers have tried to weaken or dismantle science standards crafted by educators and scientists. Amid a climate-change skeptical Trump administration, legislators cite a concern about one-sided arguments. Special correspondent Lisa Stark of Education Week reports.

NSTA Executive Director David Evans was interviewed for the program.

“When a legislative body decides to recommend against science content that’s been well-vetted by the science community and the education community, we undergo a great risk in denying our children really important information that they are going to need.”

Click here to view the PBS program, Making the Grade (aired, Feb 20, 2018)

Teachers Learning to Teach the ‘Next Generation of Science Standards’

During a recent school day, 40 teachers and administrators from 12 school districts were gathered in the Frog Pond Elementary School (NJ) media center and told to spend 10 minutes having fun with a paper whirligig.

They were also given three paperclips to add to or subtract from the whirligig. After tossing the flimsy toy in the air and seeing its lackluster performance, they were asked to conclude why the toy wasn’t selling well and then come up with ways to make the toy better. By talking within their small groups, the teachers were to “define the problem, develop and test solutions and then optimize the solution.”

This was a simple experiment in engineering during the last day of the three-day Jersey Shore Consortium Science Institute at the school, in Little Egg Harbor Township.

“I want you to experience how it feels to learn this way,” said Stacey van der Veen, founder and lead consultant for “Leadership in Science” and the facilitator of the Science Institute.

The attending educators were learning how to teach the Next Generation Science Standards, a science curriculum mandated by the state for all K-12 science classes that is revolutionizing how science is taught.

Click here to read the full story on the (Feb. 21, 2018)

NGSS Extend to Orinda (CA) Elementary Schools

Next Generation Science Standards, guidelines implemented across the United States as of April 2013, have been adopted in 19 states as of November, and have continued to develop as schools work toward replacing old science curriculum with NGSS. The Wagner Ranch Elementary School garden in Orinda has made considerable changes regarding NGSS in its most recent form of garden education.

The school’s teachers apply these principles in grades K-5 in ways like developing and using models of the rock cycle in fourth grade classes. The NGSS emphasize three areas: Crosscutting Concepts, Science and Engineering Practices, and Disciplinary Core Ideas. Within these notions, ideas of cause and effect, inquiry-based learning, and application of key objectives across multiple areas of science are stressed.

Click here to read the full story in the Lomalinda Weekly (Feb. 21, 2018)

Anti-NGSS Bill in Iowa

House File 2317, introduced in the Iowa House of Representatives on February 12, 2018, and referred to the House Education Committee, would, if enacted, revert the state’s science standards to “the science standards utilized by school districts in this state during the 2014-2015 school year” — just before the state adopted the Next Generation Science Standards.

Click here to read the full story by the National Center for Science Education (Feb. 13, 2018)

Juneau Students Get New Science Lessons in 2019

A new science curriculum approved Tuesday will send Juneau (Alaska) School District elementary students out of the classroom and into the community.

Starting next year, guidelines for kindergarten through fifth-grade students will emphasize “place-based” and “culturally relevant” learning, two approaches taking hold in national teaching standards. The new curriculum was also written with Next Generation Science Standards, a national framework written by a group of 26 states.

The 82-page document guides teachers in lesson and unit planning. It was developed with extensive input from local scientists, Tlingit elders and teachers, authors Carin Smolin and Pam Garcia said. The curriculum was last updated in 2011.

The idea is to have science learning more closely mimic science work: the scientific process always starts with a question or an observation based in the real world. Place-based learning progresses similarly.

“It’s not about memorizing scientific facts, it’s more about thinking and acting like scientists and engineers because in the real world, you observe phenomena and then you wonder and you ask questions and you make connections to learn about how the world works,” Garcia said.

Click here to read the full story in the Juneau Empire (Feb. 15, 2018)

Idaho Senate Drills Down Into Nitty Gritty Of Science Standards

The third year — and possibly final year — of the Idaho Legislature’s science standards debate could come to closure next week.

The Senate Education Committee spent an hour taking public testimony on science standards Wednesday afternoon. As expected, the committee took no action. There is no date set for a vote, but it appears likely that the committee will vote next week.

Wednesday’s public hearing was more of the same, as senators heard another round of one-sided testimony. More than a dozen people testified — including teachers, parents, students and business lobbyists — and every speaker supported passing the controversial science standards in full, including references to climate change and fossil fuels.

But senators also spent some time drilling down into the finer details of the standards, and especially wording that their House counterparts rejected one week ago. The House Education Committee rejected one science standard, referring to air pollution and fossil fuels, and about a dozen pages of “supporting content” that refer to climate change.

Most of the standards have been approved without controversy. But the three-year-old debate at the Statehouse has centered on climate change — and what the science standards should say on the matter. Lawmakers have deleted language referring to climate change, forcing a State Department of Education to reconvene a committee of 19 educators to rewrite the standards last spring. But the rewrite still didn’t pass muster with House Education, which voted 12-4 to edit the standards even further.

But in essence, the process starts over in the Senate. The Senate can override the House’s action if it votes to adopt the standards in full.

Speakers urged senators to do just that, saying schools need to teach students about issues such as climate change.

“How are we to address and solve problems if we don’t know what they are or what caused them?” said Veronica Richmond, a 12-year-old student at the Treasure Valley Math and Science Center.

“It is important that students have an understanding of the issues,” said Trent Clark, a former state Republican Party chairman who now lobbies for Monsanto.

Click here to read the full story in the Idaho Ed News (Feb. 14, 2018)