Lesson 4: Wherever You Start… Start Small
In my last post, I start small with the number of resources. I’ve learned that sometimes less truly is more, because a long list can be convoluted and confusing (though tempting, it’s unhelpful). Especially if you are new to the standards and don’t know where to begin. But a short list of user-friendly resources feels inviting. Beckoning the next gen newbie to take the first step, or plunge, as the case may be.
Give yourself permission to go slow in the short run so that you can ultimately go faster in the long run. The Next Generation Science Standards are extensive, multi-faceted, and focus on depth of knowledge.
The somewhat overhyped “3 Dimensional” nature of the NGSS means that there are three legitimate areas to start. As an oversimplification, think of these as the “what”, the “how”, and the “why” of the science standards. I’ve heard many arguments about where one should start, but where you start is much less important than just getting started.
Lesson 5: Perspective Matters
Remember that one time that I was in a twitter chat with NGSS authors? Well, it happened to be a confluence of points over what area of the NGSS was best to start with and what this should look like. There is a temptation by many, especially very (rightfully) confident experts, to cast one area of the NGSS as best for a starting point. Based on my personal experience, I believe the answer is that it depends.
Start small we’ve covered, but beyond that start with your strengths as well as your needs. An authentic need is the best driver of authentic learning: for both teacher and student. So while you are starting small, find a niche that’s missing from your instruction that can be filled by something from the NGSS. This will minimize that “forced” feeling of mixing standards. Play to the strengths of the NGSS as well as your own. Are you more confident in content knowledge? Great, start with the disciplinary core ideas (DCI). No? How about how scientists conduct science? Then the science and engineering practices (SEP) are for you. Jack of all trades, then cross cutting concepts (CCC) create access points at all levels and in all areas.
You may be thinking that this will differ on your educational setting. Then you’re right! Secondary science teachers have deeper content knowledge, but may not have a lot of content integration practice. Elementary teachers will find themselves already comfortable with some of the cross cutting concepts because they’ve already been trained on how to teach them, albeit in reading, writing, and/or math. Kinder to college, and from high school history to middle school math, the best places to start are going to vary.
Lesson 6: Integrate Where You Can
More than any other standards, the Next Generation Science Standards are about integration. I have a hunch that the Cross Cutting Standards started out as “cutting” across all grade levels and subsets of science, e.g. biology, chemistry, Earth science, physics, etc. However, elementary educators (among others) naturally noticed that these concepts are commonly found in all other subject areas as well.
Science educators have since built upon this connectional epiphany. Truth be told, rarely are subjects ever applied to the work world in isolation. Even math professors need to write to communicate and scientists need to read to research. If we truly expect teachers from other disciplines to support integrated NGSS instruction, then we need to start by example and carefully integrate other subjects into our science lessons.
Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in reading, writing, math, and communication are critical to building citizen scientists. Art appreciation is a sign of sophisticated societies, but an artistic eye is also critical to user interface designers, architects, engineers, and many more “scientific” professions. The back and forth between subjects benefits all disciplines and creates a much more authentic application across all subject areas.
Lesson 7: Everyone’s in this Together
The most exciting thing that I’ve learned about the standards is the amount of collaboration that has been fostered among educational professionals. I see people reaching out from all disciplines, levels, and organizations to come together, roll up their proverbial sleeves, and work to understand.
There are books, blog posts, websites, Facebook groups, and twitter chats dedicated to learning and teaching about the NGSS. Private, public, profit, and non-profit groups are helping to spread the word and grow the body of knowledge. I’ve even spoken with high school English teachers who are finding the NGSS helpful for science-references via literacy connections.
The point is: help is out there and available, and this is an awesome synergistic way to build truly authentic educational community connections!
Lesson 7 ½: I can do this… with help.
I’ve learned that I can do this. “This” being continue to learn and grow in the Next Gen Science standards, and that I don’t have to be an “expert” to help others learn and grow in the standards as well. More importantly, I am also not alone with help from a variety of places: professional learning groups, teammates, mentors, twitter, blogs, facebook teacher friends, advocacy groups and organizations, and the surprising number of passionate advocates and real experts willing to reach out and help others. Here are some places that I go to for help:
Resource 4: Kirk Robbins is a Regional NGSS Instructor and Blogs here: https://teachscience4all.wordpress.com
Resource 5: NGSS Instructional Videos courtesy of Achieve and the Teaching Channel: http://ngss.nsta.org/ngss-videos.aspx
Resource 6: NGSS Official Website: http://www.nextgenscience.org [iOS/Android/Windows App is even better in my opinion]
Resource 7: NGSS Book(s): “The NSTA Quick-Reference Guide to the NGSS” book for the age range that you teach is very helpful (whether elementary, middle school, or high school).
Resource 7 ½: One of My More Recent NGSS Blog Posts: http://corelaboratewa.org/ngss-according-to-star-wars/
Resource 7 ¾: Just as important, remember that you can have fun doing it! Perhaps with a little help from a friend…
Lessons 1 – 3 ½ and Comments from the Peanut Gallery
For the first post of this two-part series, please click here. As for suggestions regarding additional thoughts, questions, or resources… please leave those below!