How states and school districts are adopting the Next Generation Science Standards

In addition to science principles, schools are teaching skills such as communication, collaboration and problem-solving

As 20 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards—and another 24 have adopted standards based on the same framework—K-12 districts across the nation have been implementing changes to align science curricula to the standards, which stress skills such as communication, collaboration, inquiry, problem-solving and flexibility.

NGSS focuses on three distinct and equally important dimensions to learning science—cross-cutting concepts, science and engineering practices, and disciplinary core ideas. These dimensions are combined to form each standard—or performance expectation—and all work together to give students a comprehensive understanding of science.

Officials in Pennsylvania recently announced that educators will begin reviewing its state standards to assess whether the state should implement NGSS, PennLive reported. In conjunction, $20 million in STEM training grants will be made available through the state’s PAsmart job-training initiative, according to Pennsylvania Business Report

In California, students and teachers are pushing to ramp up the study of climate change, EdSource reported. Even though climate change is included in the core ideas for middle and high school students in NGSS (which were adopted by California in 2013), interest in taking a more active approach in studying the subject has grown. Individual districts are adopting their own related resolutions and launching new initiatives. For example, Harmony Union School District in Sonoma County passed a resolution that says the district will engage with local, state and national officials who are advocating to reduce greenhouse gasses.

More from DA: NGSS science promotes phenomena-based learning

The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission is updating Oklahoma’s aviation and aerospace curriculum to parallel NGSS and state mathematics standards, KOKH reported. The four-year pathway include courses to prepare students to become private pilots or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) pilots.

The effort to adopt NGSS has also impacted science fairs, which now include project-based learning and multidisciplinary studies in technology, engineering and mathematics, according to a recent story from DA. “Projects have gotten more sophisticated as technology has become a bigger part of our lives,” said Michele Glidden, chief program officer of The Society for Science and The Public, which hosts the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair and the Regeneron Science Talent Search. More students focus on a problem that affects their lives or community, particularly when it comes to the life sciences and social justice. They also participate in multidisciplinary work that uses biometrics, smartwatches and apps, for instance.

Unlike in traditional teacher-led lessons, NGSS-aligned approaches, such phenomena-based learning, allow students to lead the learning through inquiry, Ted Willard, assistant director for science standards for the National Science Teachers Association, recently told DA.

More from DA: Schools reenergize next-generation science fairs

Students also collaborate, discover connections, design models, and ultimately, make sense of what they observe, in NGSS-aligned approaches.

“This inquiry-based approach avoids ‘intellectual bulimia’ in which students just learn words to spit back out on a test,” said Willard. “By teaching them the reasoning process, they get a deeper understanding of science concepts.”

Resource: NGSS

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