One of the biggest changes coming to science education is the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards. Currently around 20 states have officially adopted these standards (at the writing of this piece). There is currently a push to provide grant funding to move states to these new standards. In this post I would like to share some of my takeaways from this process. Disclaimer: I am no expert on NGSS, just a classroom practitioner learning along the way.
Engineering is no longer an extra: We used to plan fun engineering STEM activities to keep things interesting in middle school. NGSS puts problem solving and engineering at the core. There is a feel of project based learning here, with an emphasis on deep learning as we go.
Content/Curriculum sequences are meant to be baked in. If you are looking for a list of topics to teach and an order to do them, you will go nuts. The idea of cross cutting concepts is core to this topic. So rather than exploring a topic based on a discipline, like biology. We are looking at all aspects of the sciences involved. For example if we look at polar biomes. We no longer focus on the just the biology or ecology. We would also include things like weather, temperature, heat transfer etc.
The engineering design process is engaging for students. Our first NGSS unit was the asteroid impact lesson provided by Teach Engineering. This free unit was so well designed and engaged students. We used it alongside our rocks and minerals lessons with great success. Student explored the challenges of building underground shelters while evaluating various rock types. Check the unit plan here (external links).
Our goal moving ahead. As we move through this transition, our goal is to continue to build high quality instructional materials for middle school. Over-top of this, we will be designing NGSS challenges that will tie all the core content together taking advantage of cross cutting concepts and student engagement.
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