4 Ways that the Next Generation Science Standards are Different and Why It Matters

We’re changing things up with a video blog (Vlog) this week! But no worries, the transcript is below! Enjoy!

Here is the transcript:

Hi there! It’s Yen, from Qi Learning Research Group and the STEAM Café. I’m here to talk to you about the Next Generation Science Standards and how they’re different from the standards that we’ve been used to.

I want to start out with a little background. I had a teacher come and talk to me one time, in the middle of my workshop, and she was a little bit demoralized. She said, “The Next Generation Science Standards, like all the standards and training that we’re doing right now are FADS, and that in three or four years from now, that fad is going to change to something else. And then it’ll be something else, and then it’ll be something else.”

Her logic was that there was no reason for her to reflect on and change her own teaching strategies because there wasn’t any point. When this “fad” was over and the next one came in, it’s probably going to reflect something that happened ten years ago.

Now the interesting thing about that philosophy is this:

We know that in this day and age, our society is changing so quickly that our education system can’t even keep up. I’ll give you an example: In two years from now, 77% of the jobs in the U.S. are going to require some sort of STEM training. The problem, though, is that less than 25% of our college undergrads actually choose a career in STEM. What that means is there’s going to be a huge gap in the STEM workforce pipeline. In fact, some of us are already feeling it now. We can’t even get enough software engineers, actuaries, even medical doctors to go to different places in the U.S.

So the Next Generation Science Standards were created, along with Common Core for ELA and Math — they were created to bring our education system and bring our standards up to today’s technology and speed.

The Next Generation Science Standards are different from regular standards in generally four different ways. So, I’m gonna talk about those ways. First is, they’re 3D standards. Second, they include Engineering. They also reflect learning progressions and finally, 21-century skills. Now, what do I mean by that?

First of all, let’s talk about the 3D standards, okay? Because the standards are no longer focused on facts, there are two more dimensions to this. We’re really looking at bring science as an experience for kids to do. The emphasis is DOING science over simply passively memorizing different vocabulary words about it.

The other thing is, that because these standards are 3D, they’re expecting…we’re expecting a connection to the science that they’re learning in the classroom to real-world situations. And in addition to those real-world situations, we’re looking at practical applications of the science that they’re doing in the classroom. So, we’re looking at not only the content that we used to memorize…worksheets…right?

All of us have done worksheets. But in addition to that, being able to DO science and applying that science to real-world problems and issues. And that brings me to the next change in the standards, which is the addition of engineering. Engineering is a direct connection between the knowledge that we learn from science and how we take that knowledge and apply it to real-world problems — SOLVING real-world problems.

So, the idea behind these standards is that we’re giving kids experiences behind engineering. Knowing how to apply knowledge to solve problems RIGHT NOW in elementary school.

Now, as a side note, my dad was a civil engineer and when I was in elementary school, I really had no idea what engineering was about, even though my dad had a career in civil engineering. In fact, I didn’t exactly know what engineering was about until, quite honestly, after I graduated, because… I wasn’t planning on being an engineer. But it’s important. I mean, when we talk about STEM, a lot of times people just think, “Oh yeah, it’s medical, right? It’s being a doctor, or being a laboratory scientist.”

But it’s so much more than that. STEM encompasses all kinds of careers these days, and engineering is just one of those that’s going to be — and IS — in high needs right now. The other difference in the NGSS standards ARE these learning progressions. Learning progressions are built on concepts year after year after year.

So, when you actually look at the standards, you’ll notice that there are certain concepts that were taught in kindergarten that are now repeated in third grade. Now, when you take a look at that initially, it’s kind of like, “Well, why is there a repeat? What’s the point of that?” right? Well here’s the thing about these standards, okay?

A concept is very different than understanding a fact. The way I describe it is that a concept is kind of a three-dimensional construct of different kinds of facts and how those facts kind of round out the dimensions of our understanding of this concept.

A fact is two dimensional, it’s like one side. When you add all those facts together and make connections, now you’ve got a concept. Okay, why is this important? Because when a kid is in kindergarten, and they cover weather, it’s very superficial at that point, right? Basically, is it cloudy? Is it sunny? Is it partially cloudy, is it cold, is it hot? What do we wear during these times?

So, in our curriculum, for example, we actually have kids fill out a weather journal to understand how weather changes over the year. And also to have them take a look at cycles, and understand — get a sense for seasonality and time. Now, in third grade, when they hit weather, they build upon a deeper, more cognitively challenging concept, which is climate. So on top of understanding weather as students knew it in elementary school, now, students have to look at climate.

What is the climate of a general area? How does that climate change over time? And when I say time, not over time of a year, but we’re talking about over time over several…decades, for example. Understanding the historical context behind weather, and in addition to that, how weather systems affect people at a GLOBAL level.

So you’ll notice, yeah, if you look at the standard, if you look at the disciplinary core idea behind weather, they look the same in kindergarten and in third grade, but then when you actually dive deep into what’s expected in the other dimensions of the performance expectations the science and engineering practices and the crosscutting concepts, you’ll find that each time weather is covered or mentioned in the standards, it becomes a more complex concept so that students understand weather as a three-dimensional construct by the time they graduate.

And — I have to slip this in there — and they’ll understand why climate change is BIG.
Now…the next thing are the 21st century skills. I know we hear about this a lot, I talk about this a lot in other videos — or in future videos as well — and this is also mentioned in my Lesson Planning with the NGSS class!

Anyway, going back, what are 21st century skills?

21st century skills have been identified with governments, with private and public organizations, they’ve been identified by businesses, basically a lot of people who are telling us that when somebody goes out and applies for a job, just knowing the facts are not enough.

Now, think about this, right? We all work in the workplace. We all know people that really could use some of these 21st century skills. You know those skills like, interpersonal skills, email skills, phone skills, right? Communication skills. Self-directed skills.

Who wants to babysit a coworker just to make sure that they know what they’re doing? Don’t we agree? So, the 21st century skills are basically a generalized concept covering the kinds of — I know I keep saying skills all the time — but the kinds of skills that are required for people to be not only ready for college, but ready for a career. The interesting thing is that our government in the U.S. has built-in these 21st century skills into Common Core, English Language Arts, Mathematics, and the Next Generation Science Standards.

So, going back to this question of, “Are the Next Generation Science Standards a fad?” I would say no. And in fact, I would say I certainly hope not. And the reason why is because in today’s society, we REALLY need to change the way we that we teach and the way that we structure education.

Why? Because we’re still built on a system — a top-down hierarchy system — that reflects the structures from the Industrial Age, when we used to be factory workers. And when factory workers were needed to grow government. Okay, and grow countries. The only problem is we’re in the Information Age, now! We’re in the Technological Age, now. To have a school system that trains kids to fill out bubbles all the time is not going to help us close that gap for STEM.

Two years from now, five years from now, ten years from now, we’re still going to need doctors, we’re still going to need engineers, we’re still going to need technologists, we’re still going to need a lot of occupations in STEM that are probably not even filled yet. Probably not even created yet. So, we need an education system that builds a cognitively flexible society that can adapt to the changes — to the demands that our societies, on a global level, are asking of us — that can adapt to our society’s needs as we evolve and grow.

Anyways, that’s all for today, for my blog. I hope you enjoyed. If you really liked it, feel free to subscribe. I do have a newsletter that comes out every Wednesday that talks about what we’re up to, but it’s also full of great science stuff, resources, and freebies. The other thing, too, is that it’ll keep you abreast of all the things that we’re doing. Classes, workshops, webinars, all kinds of exciting stuff. Thanks for joining me, and

I’ll see you next week!

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