Back in my grade school days, math was where we worked through seemingly endless worksheet problems (remember times tables?), and in science, we read passages and memorized vocabulary from a book or a magazine. Fortunately for me, we had a science teacher who periodically came to our classroom to lead us through science demonstrations and activities. I was also a PBS kid, and I loved the show, “3-2-1 Contact,” which told stories about how science was being applied to the world. Having those extra experiences taught me that science is a process of solving real-world problems and understanding how the world works.
The National Research Council (NRC) recognized the disconnection between how science was taught in school, and what science actually is (hint: science is both a process of inquiry and an ever-growing and changing
The NGSS are about having kids understand the important work that scientists and engineers do by being scientists and experiencing science as an active process of inquiry. In other words, the NGSS expect students to actively investigate and explain the results of their investigations. Doing science enables kids to practice and hone the skills they need to be scientifically literate in our society. This is an upgrade to the old standards, which focused on factual knowledge; which, as educators realized, change over time (plus, the old standards were over 15 years old).
You can think of the NGSS as moving kids from learning passively to participating actively in on-the-job training as budding scientists. Unlike the standards we are used to, the NGSS include both pedagogical and content guidelines. Therefore, like occupational training (think about how teachers learn how to teach), the NGSS have performance expectations that describe what kids are expected to do and know. Consequently, each performance expectation has three dimensions: (a) what kids should do (a.k.a.the science and engineering practices); (b) what kids should know (a.k.a. The disciplinary core ideas)
While these dimensions seem to make NGSS more complicated than past science standards, their interpretation, as we will talk about in our next few posts, is more aligned to how we naturally learn and explore our world.
What does this mean for you? You’ll get kids jumping up and down yelling, “Yay! We’re doing science, today!” (No, seriously, this happens all the time!)
Are you eager to get started? Check out these free NGSS lesson plans from Better Lesson, and join our group if you have any questions!