Tuesday, May 27, 2014

So why change to the NGSS?

Long time no blog.  Sorry for the absence.  I've been a little busy with our STEM Fair.  When 2000 people show up to your house, it takes some time to prepare.  I will discuss the STEM Fair in a later posts and what its future MAY holds for us.   The reason I am not talking about it now is, well.  I have to get permission to do what I want to do first.  I'm sure many of you have been following the discussion on the NSTA listserv to teach the "SCIENTIFIC METHOD" or not.  Clearly the NGSS makes it clear that separating practice from content is not the way to go, but then what?  Stay tuned.  

My timidity in discussing it as this point is due to the fact that I have to make sure the principals (all 110) are on board before making the change.  STEM Fair is not small undertaking.  For those of you that have suffered through the science fair process as a teacher and/or parent can appreciate the consternation it can frequently wreak.  So, any change has to be proceeded with a input from all stakeholders.  A lesson I learned the hard way many moons ago.   

The webinar I am doing is to present the transition plan; most of which you have seen here.  It is also to seek input from principals for those things I have not considered.  Undoubtedly, time will come up.  It is as inevitable as death and taxes.  So here is my response at this point.  Expecting to teach science for thirty minutes a day is a waste of time (cue GASP).  If you go back to my blog entry on "Rough Estimates of Unit Length", I have some idea of how long it will take to teach all that is asked in the NGSS.  With these estimates in mind, I went back to our current suggested schedule and did some calculations based on a daily schedule and if the same time was compressed into longer times but less days during the week.  Would I like to have an hour a day?  Yes, but I know the demands of the elementary day do not make it feasible.  Instead of asking for more total time.  I just want the time allotted to be used for efficiently.  

Please do not take these times as suggested instructional blocks, but look at them as another way to think about the daily schedule.   

Please do not take these times as suggested instructional blocks, but look at them as another way to think about the daily schedule. 

With that out of the way,  the next inevitable question is "Why change?"  I won't take credit for this. The idea came up at our latest state meeting.  One of my fellow curriculum supervisors (name omitted to protect the innocent) reminded the assembled that the last standards were written in 1996.  Starting there, she took the principals on a little journey of what has changed since 1996.  I borrowed that idea and created a slide to illustrate some of  the changes.

Just for some context.  Bill Clinton and Al Gore were elected to a second term. The other guy was our superintendent (which is only relevant if you are a local).  The gray scale picture is what NASA thought was evidence of life on Mars.  Coincidentally, the movie "Independence Day" where aliens come and try to take over came out.  Dolly the sheep was cloned.  Mad cow disease flared up in the UK.  The iconic Macintosh "blueberries" started appearing in classrooms.  Digital storage capacity swelled with the 100mb Zip Drive.  The cell phone of the age had to be shown.  Not the brick of "Wall Street", but close.  Lastly, gas prices went climbing past one dollar.  In another coincidence, Toyota brought out the first Prius.  So, why change?  The fact of the mater is science and now engineering are dynamic.  If progress continues, expect another set of standards by 2023.   If, I don't post again, you will know that I did not survive the presentation.      


  1. Eric, I think your suggestion for creating larger blocks of instructional time for science to allow for inquiry and design is a good one. It may also help to point out the ways that science discussions and writing meet common core standards, thus enriching, not taking away from the ELA curriculum. (The same can be said of math, if the connections are made explicit). Here are some other ways I found to build more time for science into a crowded day: incorporate science data collection/recording into the morning work routine (when there are ongoing investigations that need monitoring); use science reading (relevant to ongoing curriculum) and writing activities (in science notebooks) as a center during the literacy block, include content-area vocabulary in weekly vocabulary lessons/activities, conduct topical research/background building in the computer lab, ask the librarian to feature relevant fiction and non-fiction tradebooks in library displays, ask the art teacher to teach scientific drawing or other skills that will enhance observation, modeling, etc.; work with the parent-teacher group (or whoever does this at your school) to plan enrichment programs and activities that are aligned with the science curriculum. The key is good collaboration and curriculum integration.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. I completely agree with all the opportunities for integration. I think most of this can occur in individual situations. The dilemma I face is writing a curriculum for 110 schools which is accountable to all the PEs of the NGSS. I would certainly hope teachers would take the opportunity to reinforce concepts and practices during teachable moments, but I have to insure (at least on paper) that the PEs can be accomplished through the written curriculum.