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A few years ago, SAUSD science teachers started to hear the rumors of new science standards. This was back when science had high-stakes test scores, that measured the memorization of facts. Back when we pushed away from student driven inquiry and focused on the exact verbiage of the standards.
We caught a few glimpses early on, but were struck by the brevity of the standards. How can we teach atoms if the students don’t learn about protons and neutrons? How can we teach cells if the kids aren’t memorizing organelles and making candy cell models?
Needless to say, we were hesitant to switch over. How can we be expected to throw out everything we know about science education? When were we supposed to find the time to learn this new philosophy, while still being tied to the 1-dimensional CST test? We were especially curious about how the district was going to unwrap this complex issue.
Last spring, SAUSD made the decision to adopt an integrated middle school model – the preferred model for California. Teachers across the district questioned what the shift would look like. And what a major shift it is. Gone is the memorization of facts. Gone is the traditional science model of lecture, book notes and cookbook labs.
Enter a whole new world of 21st century skills. Science taught as it was always meant to be, through organic inquiry and student driven investigation. Students are encouraged to make sense of the world around them by asking questions and looking for innovative solutions to the problems that surround us everyday.
The Next Generation Science Standards are everything we have ever wanted in science content, but we are still tasked by how to get the message out. How do we manage a conceptual shift as big as this?
This is my mission. Join me on my journey, as we unpack the standards and bring science into the 21st century.