Hitting the Wall: When Your District Isn’t Behind NGSS
By Joanne Michael
It’s coming…NGSS implementation. You’ve been going to the CSTA conferences to learn more, reading articles, following the “Early Implementers” twitter handle (@earlyimplement), and are excited to start trying out all of the new standards and lessons. One hiccup… your district isn’t ready to begin implementing-in fact, is telling you directly to NOT begin transitioning your lessons for at least another year. What’s a motivated, focused science teacher to do?
This exact situation is what I am in right now. To be fair, my district is beginning to implement in the middle school level and preparing for implementation at the high school level, but we were given direct instructions to not begin implementing any lessons at the elementary level for a bit longer (to give the classroom teachers a chance to adapt to the new Common Core math and ELA curriculum and standards). While frustrating, there are some things that can be done in the interim before getting the go-ahead to begin implementation.
Every grade level has the new Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs), some of which can be practiced relatively isolated from other curriculum. For example, one of the 4th grade SEPs is to “develop a model using an analogy, example, or abstract representation to describe a scientific principle” (4-PS4-1). When teaching about rock cycles and formation in the current CA 1998 standards, have the students make models of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks, or how they are changed as they go through the cycle. Is it going to hurt the students to do this additional step when it isn’t one of their standards? Not at all- it will give you the experience of practicing the SEP, and the students will get a new experience in one of their current standards.
For elementary teachers, if you are in a non-early implementer district, but want more experience and some networking opportunities with people in the same situation as you, I strongly recommend registering for the Primary or Upper Elementary Pathway at the CSTA conference October 21-23 in Palm Springs. Primary Pathway is for K-2 grade, Upper Elementary Pathway is designed for grades 3-5. The Pathways are a 10-hour course (spread over the weekend), with focused facilitators to help teach how to implement NGSS into your integrated elementary school classroom. This is the first year Upper Elementary has a pathway opening - last year’s Primary Pathways sold out months before the conference! It is a great opportunity to get your feet wet in the world of NGSS, and feel confident before your district chooses to implement.
Regardless if your district is an early implementer, one to “hold you back,” or doesn’t seem to mind either way, CSTA is here to support! Follow us on Facebook, one of our many Facebook teacher groups (California Elementary Science Teachers, California Middle School Science Teachers, California High School Science Teachers, California Science District Coaches, and California Science Education Faculty), or on Twitter. Your grade level Board of Directors and Region Directors are always happy to answer any questions or guide you in the right direction as well.
Joanne Michael is a K-5 Science Specialist for Manhattan Beach Unified, and is CSTA’s Upper Elementary Director.