How to develop phenomena-based science lessons

All three learning dimensions must work together simultaneously
By: | February 14, 2019
Students in Burlington Public Schools in Massachusetts have worked on phenomena-based projects for the past five years.Students in Burlington Public Schools in Massachusetts have worked on phenomena-based projects for the past five years.

The Next Generation Science Standards and phenomena-based learning have only been around for five years. So textbook companies and curriculum directors have not had enough time to develop properly aligned resources, says Carolyn Higgins, an eighth-grade teacher in Warwick Public Schools, Rhode Island.

“A lot of the first curricula didn’t have the three-dimensional aspects that are core to NGSS,” says Higgins. She also formerly served as president of Rhode Island’s science teachers association.

“It shouldn’t be learning practices on Monday, crosscutting concepts on Tuesday and disciplinary core ideas on Wednesday,” she adds.

Curricula need to include all three learning dimensions working together simultaneously, she says.

Hybrid science

Like other districts, Caddo Parish Public Schools in Louisiana has also developed a hybrid, locally focused curricula, with input from all participants, says K. Renae Pullen, K6 science specialist.

“As the students got engaged, we would get emails from teachers in the classroom saying, ‘Oh, have you thought about this phenomenon for this standard?’ or ‘Oh, a student said she learned this; wouldn’t that be a great phenomenon?’” says Pullen. “There’s so much autonomy because teachers are now part of something we made for us, by us.”


Main story: NGSS science promotes phenomena-based learning