A revolution in science education

29-Feb-2016

It is a priority for the Department to prepare students for the evolving field of science and ensure that they are equipped to tackle global problems. This is why, earlier this month, the BOE approved the adoption of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Science breakthroughs and discoveries keep the field of science in a constant evolution. Whether tackling global problems from pandemics to the state's limited resources, it takes the best and the brightest to bring forth solutions.

Adapting to these scientific changes is a priority for the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) and the motivation behind implementing a new educational approach called, Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

"NGSS is a tool that will help teachers and students makes sense of science, make connections to natural phenomena and apply scientific knowledge," said Lauren Kaupp, science specialist, Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Student Support (OCISS). "This new approach recognizes that science does not follow a prescribed method and that the fun of science is in figuring out the how and the why of the world around us."

NGSS promotes a deeper learning of science that is multi-dimensional and purposeful. It is anchored in three dimensions – Science and Engineering Practices, Crosscutting Concepts and Disciplinary Core Ideas.  Students might be asked to complete a task or problem using multiple disciplines including mathematics, language arts and social studies to gain a comprehensive understanding or develop a solution. ​

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​ "We envision the transition to​ NGSS sparking innovative practices that bring enthusiasm and fun to the teaching and learning process." 

- Garrett Arakawa, vice principal, 
Momilani Elementary​​​

An example of this type of lesson would include asking students about the rise of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an antibiotic resistant bacterial infection. In order to understand why cases are increasing, students may learn about natural selection through engaging science projec​ts and curriculum. The study of MRSA could be expanded to involve mathematics through the collection and analysis of data; English language arts through ​argumentation and communication; and social studies by tracking the spread of infection among the human population. By making connections across disciplines, students gain a better understanding of the lesson making it memorable and relevant in subjects besides science.

"NGSS represents the way students should learn science. We have multiple evidences of students engaged and enthusiastic about learning science and STEM," said Garrett Arakawa, vice principal at Momilani Elementary. "Our students will have the opportunity to be exposed to an education that is infused with rigor, relevance, imagination and grit. We envision the transition to NGSS sparking innovative practices that bring enthusiasm and fun to the teaching and learning process."

The new standards are interwoven across the following dimensions​​:

  • Science and Engineering Practices: This dimension will help students understand the process scientists and engineers go through as they investigate, design and problem solve.
  • Crosscutting Concepts: Students will explore the connections between Physical Science, Life Science, Earth and Space Science and Engineering Design, which will help them gain a scientifically based view of the world.
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs): As students progress through each grade level, these key ideas will continue to build on each other emphasizing the broad importance of multiple sciences and engineering disciplines.

Supporting schools throughout the state with NGSS implementation will include professional development, collaboration and communication among teachers.

Veteran teacher​ Kimberlee Stuart of Kapaa High School believes the support she's received has helped her ease into NGSS.

"Although the changes are large and somewhat cumbersome for the whole state to adopt, I think that the Department has a realistic idea of how to incorporate NGSS in a manner that is gradual and comprehensive, and that the ultimate outcome for our students, and indeed, for our future, will absolutely be positive," said Stuart.

"Having been a member of the state's Content Panel on Science Education, and the newer Science Work Group over the last few years, I've had a good look at NGSS and truly believe that the time has come for the revolution in science education that NGSS affords." 

For more information about NGSS, visit http://ngss.nsta.org.  ​

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