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Are you ready for the needs of science learners?
The Next Generation Science Standards have just been released.
And I'm excited, not scared, about the possibilities.
I know there will be challenges ahead. But as we unpack these ideas, there will be opportunities to strengthen education as a whole.
- STEM is integrated as part of the process. This shifts the paradigm away from canned products, often at a high cost, and provides ideas that can lead to relevance in the classroom.
- Practices of science, which we have called inquiry, are embedded in the process. This shifts science towards student-centered models of pedagogy.
- Cross-cutting standards, including cause-and-effect, patterns, scaling, go beyond the silo mentality of traditionally taught classes, and link with other standards. Rather than being limited to one discipline, we can cast our nets wide...if we have the courage and foresight to imagine it.
Fear often accompanies a new initiative, a change process, a new idea.
- I'm guessing that fears include a fear of a 'big-brother curriculum' are a common concern. But that's just not true. The standards are based in performance expectations, or competencies. Local districts still decide curricular materials and provide professional development.
- Having to REDO my lessons and curricula. This is the "I've always taught butterflies" worry, and it IS a lot of work. But it's necessary. We all know the frustration a child experiences when s/he changes schools frequently, and different material is covered in different grade bands. The NGSS standards identify concepts to be taught in a grade level or band to minimize these knowledge gaps.
- Costs of new equipment in a tight economy. There may be some reshuffling of equipment and/or teachers for a particular subject. In a collaborative environment, however, these concerns are somewhat minimized. And the focus on models: physical models, virtual models, pictures of models--all of these can lead to deeper thinking by students without great cost.
- The alignment of the Common Core with science and English and math. For teachers who are content specialists, this is perhaps the biggest fear of all. Will they suddenly be teaching English Literature? And again, while I can understand this misconception, the old wisdom about reading applies here. ALL teachers SHOULD teach reading for their content area, ALL teachers SHOULD teach use the best teaching tool for a given concept, including technology, and ALL teachers should be giving their students problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Far from limiting us, the Common Core can open new opportunities and wider teaching opportunities for literacy and learners, if we just open the door of possibility.
Students adapt to new ideas easily because it's not different, it's just the way to do things. As we go into this venture of unpacking, let's take a deep breath and start looking for chances to do the same.