July 3, 2015

NGSS & the Romantic Comedy: More in Common than You Think

Will your district be implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) this year?  If so, have you gut-checked your visceral reaction to the news?  

If you've been around awhile, you might anticipate the introduction of a new set of standards much as you do jury duty or summer flu.  There's a chance you've come to see these roll-outs as much ado about nothing new - and the reaction would not be unfounded based on past experience.  We have too often been directed to teach standards our career education has taught us are developmentally inappropriate.  For instance, before Common Core's sweeping changes, California State Standards had me teaching 2nd graders to describe particle motion in the three states of matter.  I also recall 5th grade physical science included a few dubious standards involving the periodic table.

Knowing my options were to introduce content too abstract for the age group or risk students being blindsided on standardized tests, I tried to create learning experiences to make the content accessible and fun - as is my approach in general - but I never felt good about it.  The internal dissonance created when asked to do something that isn't right for students has led to many of us feeling jaded and resistant when presented with yet another curriculum change.  

So I have been poking into NGSS's past and digging into the details, expecting to find dirt ... and here I should stop for a moment.  You know the romantic comedy cliche where the new guy comes into town and shakes things up, threatens the status quo, and makes bunch of enemies?  Then perhaps his greatest foe comes to begrudgingly respect him, and eventually finds herself shocked when she discovers she is - in fact - in love with this guy? I may or may not have just gone through this dance with NGSS.  As unlikely as it first seemed, I think I might be in love.  

At first, I was annoyed with NGSS.  Why are these standards so flippin' hard to read?! Admittedly, I did just dive in because I wanted to get to the good stuff.  NGSS, that was my fault.  I thought I knew better than you.  I'm a grown woman, a ten-year teacher, and I know how to read!  So I skipped the page NGSS laid out to set the foundation for reading the standards.  Don't make my mistake; start with a quick review of how to read the standards

Next, I cruised around the NGSS site a bit, trying to get to know it better.  (Cue begrudging respect, quickly followed by excitement.) There is still much to explore and read, but I've yet to find a standard that creates dissonance for me.  

My overall impression is that these standards represent a much needed and welcome sea change.  The underlying premise is that kids should be doing science, and working to deep levels with developmentally appropriate disciplinary core ideas (DCIs).  At least in California, this changes dramatically which concepts are taught at which grade levels at the elementary and middle school levels, and I've not seen such a shift before. Also at the foundation of NGSS is that scientific & engineering concepts and practices should integrated and connected rather than being taught as isolated units.  Finally, of course, there is alignment with Math and ELA Common Core.

This is my go-to link for the big picture.  It helped me quickly find where standards had moved grade levels, and exactly what students are expected to do and know at each grade level.  It took awhile for me to happen upon this page, so I wanted to call it out. 

Line after line, standard after standard, I was met with that beautiful simpatico feeling where it all rings true and aligns with my core beliefs and philosophy about teaching science.  NGSS ... I think we're soul mates.  I want to have a Tom Cruise-hopping-on-the-couch-on-Oprah moment with/about you.

It's not all going to be perfect.  No relationship ever is.  But I like what you're about, and I think we can make this thing work. 

Next time: NGSS - Getting Started and the Intimidation Factor


Clip art: 
Sonya DeHart Designs


photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/80031239@N00/515325878">How Do You Feel Today?</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">(license)</a>

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/47264866@N00/3393259139">Late Night Mathematics</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>

 photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/7339259@N08/6002946400">CSI Lab</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">(license)</a>

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