With STEM on the tip of every tongue and a renewed emphasis on compelling nonfiction, the Next Generation Science Standards can be a key way to meet the needs of students and provide resources for educators. Cindy Workosky of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) explains it this way: “Science education is very important and when it comes to what is being taught and learned, standards create an opportunity for parents and teachers to know the goals.”
A three-pronged approach helps to get there. Referred to as a “three-dimensional” system, the Next Generation Science Standards include practices, core ideas, and crosscutting to achieve a deep and rich learning environment for students. Cindy proudly points out that “Thousands of teachers were involved in the development” and frontline teacher experience and expertise is clearly seen in the way the standards are organized and communicated. The development process was led by Achieve and NSTA was a key partner.
Teachers continue to play a key role. The NGSS hub is a home for all things NGSS and offers countless learning opportunities for teachers. “We have about fifty teacher curators who are constantly scouring the internet for classroom lessons and resources,” explains Cindy. Best of all, these resources are tagged to specific performance expectations.
STEM “makes important connections to math, literacy, and engineering and NGSS can be a perfect pathway,” Cindy notes. Michigan and Connecticut joined the fourteen states and the District of Columbia that have adopted the standards at this time and the standards are already having an impact across the country. “Teachers everywhere are seeing the strength in three-dimensional learning,” Cindy adds, “many of the products are consumed by teachers in non-NGSS states.” Any teacher can benefit by the tools and resources.
One of the most comprehensive resources available to educators is an interactive eBook entitled Discover the NGSS. “It’s an incredible tool that teachers can come to again and again,” remarks Workosky. Some of the most useful and acclaimed aspects of the book are the integrated assessments and the unit planner functionality. Find out more about this useful tool at http://www.nsta.org/publications/press/ebooks.aspx.
There may be face-to-face opportunities even more near at-hand. NSTA sponsors multiple conferences each year. The 2016 national conference will be in Nashville March 31-April 3, the STEM Forum and Expo will be in Denver July 27-29 and the fall regional conferences will be held in Minneapolis (October 27-29), Portland, Oregon (November 10-12) and Columbus, Ohio (1-3).
In addition to the specific strands devoted to three-dimensional learning at all the conferences, the Nashville conference will also have a day-long forum focused on tools, a share-a-thon and hundreds of sessions. NSTA works closely with local educators and tailors the programming at the regional shows to best suit their needs. The various NSTA conferences with locations and dates are listed at http://www.nsta.org/conferences/.
But what about books? What books work best with the Next Generation Science Standards? For that, Cindy points to the annual “Outstanding Science Trade Books for the Classroom” list co-sponsored by NSTA and the Children’s Book Council. The NGSS provides a model for “gathering, describing, and using information about the natural and designed world” and NSTA recognizes that literature is an essential partner.
Some recent standouts that have appeared on the Outstanding Science Trade Books list include About Habitats: Polar Regions by Cathryn and John Sill, Dirty Rats by Darren Lunde, Emu by Claire Saxby, The Fruits We Eat by Gail Gibbons, Home Address: ISS by James Buckley, Welcome to New Zealand by Sandra Morris, Egg: Nature’s Perfect Package by Steve Jenkins and Raindrops Roll by April Sayre. The complete 2016 list can be found here: http://www.nsta.org/publications/ostb/ostb2016.aspx. The Bound to Stay Bound version of the 2016 list can be found here: http://bit.ly/1lsjlbS.
It had been fifteen years since science education standards had been reviewed and updated when the process for developing the Next Generation Science Standards began. Think about the technological advances that have happened in that time and it becomes readily apparent that new standards were not only needed but urgent. The NGSS states that “The U.S. has a leaky K12 STEM talent pipeline, with too few students entering STEM majors and careers at every level.” The NGSS provides “the necessary foundation for local decisions about curriculum, assessments and instruction.” The full NGSS statement is here: http://www.nextgenscience.org/sites/ngss/files/NGSS%20fact%20sheet.pdf.
Not every state has adopted NGSS, but every state knows the need for quality STEM education. NGSS can provide a three-dimensional map on how to get there.