Back at it already! Lets talk science…standards.

Clearly I cannot get enough of my new blog. I’m back blogging within an hour of my first post! (Maybe this is a sign of things to come. Who knows?)

Tonight, I’m going to talk about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in light of the discussions we have been having in my Science Methods course. These standards were developed in a collaborative effort between The National Research Council, The National Science Teachers Association, The American Association for the Advancement of Science and Achieve. Their goals were simple: 1) Revise the previous standards developed in 1996, (Yes, 1996. 17 years ago). 2) Rewrite what it means to teach and learn science in the United States. The result of all the hard word was just published in May, 2013. It cannot be overstated that these are literally brand new standards!

To me, the NGSS read a lot like the Common Core State Standards developed for Math and English Language Arts. Clearly, the focus is on moving beyond route memorization and stagnant learning. Science is an active and engaging enterprise and the NGSS recognize and articulate this. Diverse cultural perspectives are advocated for. However, the Standards also take a step back and address the Nature of Science itself.

According to the NGSS, the Nature of Science can be separated into four distinctive categories: 1) Science is a Way of Knowing, 2) Scientific Knowledge Assumes an Order and Consistency in Natural Systems, 3) Science is a Human Endeavor and 4) Science Addresses Questions About the Natural and Material World. I love that in addition to the actual performance standards, careful thought has been put into categorizing and defining the nature of science itself. In this way, the developers of the standards are taking a step backwards as if to say, “Hold up. Before we dig into the nitty-gritty, lets figure out what this ‘science’ thing we’re supposed to address is anyway.

As Science Teacher myself, I think the NGSS are an excellent resource for teachers. The standards’ emphasis on active participation, critical questioning and collaborative exploration align with my own teaching philosophy. To successfully teach science, the actual content takes a back to the format in which it is taught. News Flash: Kids DO NOT enjoy being lectured to and then completing worksheets silently on their own. The NGSS address the importance of the educational atmosphere.

The standards also address the importance of interdisciplinary connections. In the case of the grade-level standards themselves, there is an entire section dedicated solely to interdisciplinary connection that can be made to the Common Core. As an educator, connections help to solidify students’ learning.

Linked with the idea of connections, successful science instruction must include meaningful and relevant content. The NGSS have outlined essential overarching content areas that should be addressed as well as generated broad performance outcomes, but they haven’t specified to a “t” what to teach. There is room for flexibility within the classroom. Take it! Use it! Connect with your students! I know I will.

Put another way, if I had to pick the essential elements that made up the compound that is Successful Science Instruction, they would be as follows: 1) Active/Engaging material, 2) Collaboration, 3) Noise/Chatter/Discussion 4) Meaningful/Relevant Content and 5) Connections to Other Disciplines. As somebody who has taken a few science classes, I understand the importance of strong bonds within these elements to ensure a stable compound/end product. In other words, it is not that complex! With these four simple elements, the essential compound that is Successful Science Instruction can be forged in classrooms across the country!

That is all for now. Enjoy this quote as you go, “I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” -Robert Frost


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