I am truly excited about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Maybe that is funny or strange, however The US needs a framework for teaching science and engineering in a progressive, experiential way while incorporating it with technology as a useful and needed tool. These standards relate to the Common Core State Standards for mathematics and language arts and will incorporate both engineering and inquiry skills. They will be internationally benchmarked as to make students globally competitive. The standards are currently being revised from the first draft and a new draft will be available in the Fall of 2012. The website about this development is HERE.
What is most important is these standards will now teach science in an integrated, experiential way. Students will not just learn facts but they will also learn concepts and have the curriculum aligned from grade to grade to build on their knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas and the scientific method. Students will learn to use the scientific method by asking a real world question or addressing a real world problem and investigating solutions and answers. They will learn engineering skills through problem solving by design. Both areas are essential to building a base of scientific knowledge. The scientific concepts taught will be real-world, useful, and taught through all disciplines of science. Content knowledge will build from grade to grade. The core ideas taught will be all the important scientific ideas that have a relevance and a relationship to the real world. There won’t be isolated facts for memorization here and there, but actual, practical core concepts. These standards offer the opportunity for all the STEM fields to work together and offer a synthesized and comprehensive education in science. Teachers in math and science will work together. What a concept!
It is exciting for this opportunity to bring science to life for students. We did not learn science like this when I went to school. Actually there wasn’t much science until high school. By that time, so many factors influence a child’s development that the door may not be open. Scientific concepts can be taught from a young age with appropriate activities and as a student grows and matures, these concepts can be revisited and expanded. The knowledge will get deeper and deeper, curiosity will happen. Students can keep an electronic portfolio of their work and review it from time to time. A journal of questions and ideas should be the norm.
So what will NGSS do for education? On the “evaluate the critical thinking and problem solving scale” (not a real thing, my words), they are a 10. If we can teach the concepts through experience and build on them at age appropriate levels, we will create more scientists and engineers. Add to this, embracing the arts and using them to teach these concepts and you have your perfect world — Integrated Curriculum. Students can build an instrument or design a yo-yo and learn what makes it work or what happens when you change the design. It is a lot of why and how.
So the US can be on its way to creating a new generation of critical thinkers and problem solvers, and ones that appreciate the dimensions the arts bring to science. It all works together. There will be excitement, engagement and creativity. That is just the beginning….