I am engaged in my own after school learning community, surrounding science through the grades. We are aware that the sand is shifting beneath us in that our state has not yet adopted the Next Generation Science Standards. The “older” standards are still in play for many teachers in our school but the real meat of the topics, including things like who will teach simple machines and forces of motion, are up for discussion. As a result, too many things are not explored or taught at all. How can a student reach fifth grade without having developed thinking deeply about the water cycle in a growing scientific way?
What attracted me to the NGSS conversations years ago was the way they are viewed in a somewhat different way, or maybe it’s just that their organization speaks to my logical-mathematical thinking anyway.
There are three ways to view the standards:
Kindergarten children are expected to explore and then integrate the learning in other ways. With a science-based curriculum, I am able to revisit our learning over the course of the year. Rather than planning a 2-week unit on weather, I can roll back to weather over time, and apply it to seasons, patterns in our universe, the changing angle of the sun over the course of the year, animals and their habitat and adaptations, careers, pets, the needs of all living things etc. I view science through its web design, as all of life is interconnected. This allows students to think more deeply, more personally, and to do that over and over again as new concepts are developed and connections are made.
Should we ask teachers to only teach specific topics? I know that some teachers get deflated because an earlier grade teacher “did butterflies” so her class is now bored. Where is the student and educator passion in that plan? My students want to bring things in from home that are outside of any assigned topic list. I love all of science and I know my class is crazy about all of the science work we do.
I don’t have a Steve Spangler kind of program. Those things can often cost money. I try to avoid that. There are tons of things that can have long-lasting value though and they are worth the investment. Seed packets and soil will give us weeks and months of learning. A pack of Mentos and a 2L bottle of soda, while a snazzy performance, is not likely to create lifelong learning on gases.
I love all of science and I know my class is crazy about all of the science work we do. Right now, we are rocking simple machines and designing leprechaun traps. Our plants are on the windowsill and in the snowbank outside the window. The sun is higher in the sky and snow is melting. Our classroom pets continue to educate us about their lives. The duck eggs will arrive next month and we will be back to looking at animals, seasons, water cycle, vernal pools, and habitats with our friend from the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation.
We cannot avoid these topics as life and learning cycles on and finds its own pattern of change.
Thanks for listening to this rambling reflection. It’s my process for making better sense of my thinking.