Sunday, April 13, 2014

Next Generation Science Standards

This sign was outside the bookstore, where I thought I'd find a lot of science trade books.
On April 2nd, I spent the day in and around Boston.  I was fortunate to be able to attend an all-day professional development session on the Next Generation Science Standards(NGSS) at the National Science Teacher's Association Conference.  I sat at a round table with science teachers from Massachusetts, New Jersey, Texas and Ethiopia!  The people running the session created the new standards.  The most controversial element of NGSS was not evolution or climate change, but waves.  Since waves power so many everyday things, like cellphones, they felt it was important to include the topic.

This exhibit caught my eye.
The practices were familiar; they're the steps scientists follow to do their research.  At the table, we did a couple of experiments, recorded our observations and created models.  Disjointed strands of the old standards have been braided together to make a solid rope of practices, cross-cutting concepts and core ideas.  By doing hands-on experiments, kids will become engaged and they'll have a deeper learning experience.   The end result is more of a big picture or systems approach to understanding.   

We had fun wearing goggles for one experiment.
I asked if they had looked at how other countries taught science when they developed the standards.  The answer was yes, several.  One country was Finland.  These standards are based on the most up-to-date research on how we learn.  Given my background in technology and systems design, I was enthusiastic and so were the teachers at my table.  One said the hands-on approach was much better than "spoon feeding" the kids.    

We did some modeling for a syringe experiment.
Afterward, I listened to a talk by author, Carla Killough McClafferty.  She spoke about using fiction techniques in nonfiction.  It was interesting hearing examples from her books.  One of them is now on my reading list.  It was a long day, but an enlightening one.
Although the exhibit hall wasn't open, I could still look down and check it out.