Sunday, April 2, 2017

NSTA 2017

NSTA 2017 was in Los Angeles and oh boy, it was a hit.  I will attempt to highlight some of my favorite sessions below.  My focus this year was primarily on assessment.  I really wanted to find good resources for how to ensure we know how to assess our students fairly  as we begin to implement NGSS in the classroom. 

This was my first session I attended this year.  Kevin Anderson (Wisconsin Science Education Consultant) @wisdpiscience  led us on a short journey to discuss what a system of NGSS assessment might look like for a school:  formative, summative, benchmark, other elements.  He stressed the need to make sure that assessment ties back to our vision.  We did a fun activity where we had to take data and generate a model from it. 

I totally love my model.  HEHEHEHEHE

He shared with us an idea of competency based grading and shared about the next generation storylines that help teachers bundle performance expectations and put them into a coherent progression for student learning.  SUPER COOL!  Kevin told us that rubrics are a learning progression and should NOT have the terms like NEVER, SOME, or ALWAYS.   I will have to go back and look at the rubrics I have created.

Kevin has a blog, which I will now be following, and he shared one in which he wrote about using students surveys as an assessment piece.  I have linked that one HERE.

Overall, Kevin's session was really awesome and was the perfect way to start NSTA 2017.


miniOne System

I have been looking for an electrophoresis system that might be useful for teachers in my district.  When I say useful I mean:  user friendly, quick, not a lot of setup, no dangerous chemicals, not dangerous to students, etc.  What I found with the miniOne system is that this system is AWESOME!  If I was teaching biology, I would want this simple set up in my class.  We poured, loaded and ran a gel in sixty minute session.  INCREDIBLE!!!!! 

Classroom Assessment and the NGSS

Heidi Schweingruber did a great job of sharing with us what assessment could look like in the NGSS classroom:  multiple components, progressive nature of learning, include an interpretive system for evaluating a range of students products.  There is a new book, Seeing Students Learn Science, published by the National Academies Press.  You can download the pdf for free at the link!!!!  I'm so gonna read this bad boy.  THANKS HEIDI!

Admittedly, crosscutting concepts are an area I struggle with.  I know what they are and I know they are important, but I've been struggling as a teacher to see HOW they can be used.  Thus, I really wanted to go to this session.  And Peter A'Hearn rocked it!!!!   He showed us how you can kinda categorize the CCC.


He gave us this quote from Henri Poincare:  Science is built up of facts, as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house.

We know that CCC are how scientists think but Peter led us to realize that crosscutting concepts set up the CONTEXT for HOW scientists ask the right questions.  We could design questions for our students OR we could show our students and have them ask questions based on the CCC.  AWESOME!  Peter has a website where he has free handouts and posters for CCC to be used in the classroom.

THANK YOU PETER!!!!  Amazing session.
Leena Bakshi, EdD (@leena219) and Mena Parmar (@menaparmar) had an energetic session on getting gets talking in the science classroom.  They provided us with some fun strategies, having us practice them. 

Though they were all excellent ideas, I think I really enjoyed the think-pair-share with a twist.  They had think-write-pair-write-share-write.  REALLY like this! 
Thanks ladies!!!!  Very fun and great way to end the day!

CHALLENGE BASED LEARNING UNITS INCORPORATING ENGINEERING DESIGN
David Vernot with the University of Cincinnati shared with us a searchable database of Science and Math Engineering Project.  Can't wait to go through this to find amazing projects for ours students to experience.  Woohoo!  Thanks David...you just made my search for engineering so much easier.


SCIENCE vs ENGINEERING?
I led a session this year on science vs engineering, explaining how they are similar and different and how they fit into the classroom. I was super excited to see a decent amount of people show for this 8:30 am session and super pumped to be able to share this at the National conference.  WOOT!!!!  I've written this blog before for those who are interested.

Grading in a 3 Dimensional Classroom
Jim Clark (@sci_innovations) and Samantha Johnson rocked this session.  They had us evaluate the purpose of grades, digging into what is a formative vs summative assessments.  They shared this idea of a chef cooking a meal and as they cook they taste to make sure they are on the right track (formative) but once they have finished the dish they serve it for the guests to enjoy (summative).  LOVE THIS ANALOGY.  

They suggested competency based grading using the scale.  They explained that even though they grade everything on a 1-4 scale, the only grade that really counts is the summative assessment in the end.  In theory, if the formative assessments do their jobs and there is learning progression, a student will be able to show mastery of the content in the end.

In the end Jim and Samantha said that whatever grading system we use, it CANNOT cancel out hope.  I couldn't agree more.  Great stuff!!!

ADVANCED STUDENT THINKING THROUGH INTERACTIVE NOTEBOOKS with NGSS
Jennifer Weibert did an excellent job sharing with us how to use interactive notebooks in an NGSS class.  She indicated there are three things that must be present for students to learn using their notebook:  COLOR, PICTURES, TEXT.  YES!!!!!

She showed us some student exemplars and they were really nice.  She stressed the need for students to have the same assignment on the same page in their notebook and this is for the purposes of ease of grading.  This would be the only thing I would consider doing different...because sometimes kids just need more space and if they have a table of contents then you can identify where that material is located.

She also shared that if you start your unit with a phenomena, they can do this really cool strategy of building meaning around the essential questions of the unit.  They put those questions in the center of the page in a light bulb, and as they start building knowledge to answer those questions they add it to that page citing where in their notebook they found that information (kinda like a giant concept map).  I absolutely LOVE this idea!!!!



I did another workshop with some of my amazing coworkers on HOW WE MADE our FIRST NGSS CLASS.  It was a hit and I loved sharing our work with other teachers.  I am so spoiled to work with such an incredible group of dedicated educators.

From another session I picked up  little tidbit that made my day.  It was the ACT college readiness standards.  Basically, it is the evidence I need to show teachers when they ask, "How do we know if NGSS will prepare kids for college?"  An amazing find!!!!


I went to a bunch of other amazing sessions, but to write about all of them would take me all night, and I am now officially tired.   The guys from San Francisco Unified....and your water bottle flip phenomena....LOVED IT!  SFUSD has got it together!

I got to hang out with Exploratorium Teacher Institute Team.  If you are a teacher and haven't check them out, then you are truly missing out.  I want to be like these science rock stars when I grow up!!!!!  They have figured out how to deliver phenomena in spades.  If you go the NSTA Conference site, make sure you pull up the resources from their sessions.  Lori, Zeke, Erik, Tammy and Julie....y'all are my science heroes!

I want to thank NSTA for putting on a great conference and thank all the presenters for the dedication to science education and students.  If my colleagues were unwilling to share, I would not be able to learn from them.

NSTA was amazing this year.  I got to meet a lot new people, hang out with old friends and coworkers, LEARN a bunch of new strategies, engage in amazing experiences and for the first time, present at the NATIONAL conference.  NSTA 17 will go down in history for me as AWESOME-SAUCE.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Exploratorium Day 3

Exploratorium Day 3:  Amazoids.

You would have thought that day 3 couldn’t beat day 1 or 2, but these days just keep on getting better. 

We started the day with an extremely engaging graphing activity that can be found HERE.  Basically we were given parts of information at told to make a graph but NOT label the graph.  Then, each group had to hang up their graphs around the room and we were given a list of scenarios.  We then had to GUESS what their graph was about based off the shape of their graph and the scenario.  So AWESOME.


We followed that up by going down on the Exploratorium floor and participating in a class rotational inertia activity.  But WHAT CAME NEXT MADE ME SO DAMN HAPPY!!!!!!  We generated d-t, v-t and a-t graphs using tape and our measurements.  THOUGH, we didn’t actually plot data points.  We just used tape…this is such an amazing and visual way to create and visibly represent these graphs.  This makes me graphy happy!



We then got to pick one of four small group topics to investigate how to NGSS-ify a lesson.  The Exploratorium Teacher’s Institute has a tool that can be used to do this and it is fairly simple to use.  I picked the SEED GERMINATION group.  We found a way to use CD cases to germinate radish seeds and how to store them in a plastic shoe box.  The team of teachers and I then identified different ways to take this simple experimental design and chatted about how to use this in a NGSS activity. 



We finished off the day in the tactile dome…a dark, huge dome in which you have to feel your way around in order to get out.  SUPER fun.  Super engaging.  Super tactile.  And the Exploratorium offered this activity to use for free.  EPIC!

Oh…and we got a behind the scenes tour of their maker space to build the exhibits.  HOLY DRILL PRESS AND METAL WORKING!  It was like a geeks garage of sunshine and joy.  It was Home Depot on ‘roids. 

The Exploratorium has provided some seriously thought provoking activities that makes me want to dig in deeper.  This has led to unbelievable conversations with these rock star teacher leaders that has been much needed and irreplaceable.  Hearing where everyone is in regards to NGSS implementation, how they tackling this, what their processes are, concerns, successes, tools and issues has been absolutely priceless.

Since we started this process in my district nearly 3 years ago, lots of resources have been made and some of them have been vetted.  But sometimes I feel like I am a lone pioneer having to invent and find my way through the uncharted jungles of NGSS.  But the Exploratorium Teacher Institute has been an excellent tour guide and my fellow classmates have jumped in this expedition fearlessly.

My brain is fried, my stomach is full of delicious seafood, and my legs are tired from walking but I am still super stoked to see what the Exploratorium has planned for us tomorrow.

 



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Exploratorium Day 2

Exploratorium…Day 2…OMG…awesome

Can I tell you how awesome it is to be at the Exploratorium (where pi day started) on pi day!!??!??!?!?!?!?!  An amazing and uniquely exciting experience is an understatement.

We started this awesome day by experiencing some more fun on the Exploratorium floor.  Lori led us through an amazing process of discovering how colored lights produce shadows and when added together make white light.  Now, I’ve been teaching physics for a few years now, and to go through the process that she led us through to experience the colored lights was FAN-DAMN-TASTIC! 
The team at the Exploratorium has mastered the ability to get teachers thinking.  Some of their favorite questions:


  •  WHAT DO YOU NOTICE?   So simple, yet so elegant, in its approach to engaging the learner in deeper understanding and digging into prior knowledge.
  • How do you know what you know?  (This will literally drive people to finding their evidence to support their claim)

Tammy then led us on a thought provoking journey with an age old classic:  pressure demonstration.  But her demo was cooler!  You can see it here.  Through a series of activities, that can be found here, Tammy and Zeke expertly crafted our ability to dive into deeper pedagogical practices to engage students learners in discourse, modeling, reflecting, experimenting, etc. 

We then experienced PI DAY!  The Exploratorium does a hike around the pier and those who wish to participate are given a number within the pi sequence….and we marched, in order, in a pi parade.  IT WAS AWESOME!  Upon completion, the Exploratorium gives everyone a piece of PIE!  OMG!  And, btw, pi day is free at the Exploratorium.  What an amazing way to share geeky science with the community and get people stoked about STEM!  Just so you know I was the #4 that is 61 numbers into pi.  hehehehe


As a group we walked up to COIT tower then kicked it with some cold ones and reflected on best practices, strategies, uh ohs, ahas and OMGs! 

I have met the most amazing group of educators here.  These people are dedicated to their crafts AND they are some serious leaders in science education, not only in California, but I would say across the US.  These teacher leaders are innovators, strategizers, implementors, educators, rock stars, collaborators.  I can’t even come up with enough terms for them.  My science teacher brain hurts but I want to seek out more information. 

My biggest take aways today:
  • ·        Teachers need to experience phenomena (of a topic they aren’t as comfortable with) to see first hand how the process works
  • ·        Discourse is an ABSOLUTE must if we want students make meaning around their learning. This means that teachers have to have a deep, conceptual understanding of their content in order to facilitate this discussion.
  • ·        Finding good anchoring phenomena to introduce a concept/activity/unit is critical
  • ·        Developing professional development that can empower teachers to implement NGSS has to be mindful and thoughtful (this is going to be fast for some and slow for others)
  • ·        A MODEL should include:

o   What you know
o   What you saw
o   What you think

My FAVORITE phrase of the day came from Zeke.  “Obvious is the opposite of interesting.”  YES!  ABSOLUTELY!


This was a pretty amazing day.  I can’t wait for Day #3.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

Exploratorium Day 1

Day 1 at the Exploratorium = AWESOME

I am in sunny, yes sunny, San Francisco to participate in the Teacher Leader Network Institute at the amazing Exploratorium.  And MAN!  I can’t say how excited I am to be here.  The Exploratorium is like Heaven sprinkled with awesomeness for science geeks.  You can play with the exhibits to experience science first hand.  I learned today is that the Exploratorium is NOT the Explainatorium.  They truly seek to allow the observer to experience the science and create meaning from their experience.

This Institute has brought together science teacher leaders throughout the state of California with 4 goals in mind:
  •        Create a professional home for this learning community
  •        Spend time each day engaging as a learner, teacher and leader
  •        Provide time and resources for us to advance our work with teachers and students
  •        Identify what supports are needed in the implementation of NGSS

You want to talk about a way for science teachers to geek out…put them in a building with amazing toys of science happiness, give them the opportunity to play and talk about how best to create quality learning for students…and MAN are we satisfied customers!

Already I’ve met some amazing people, had some incredible conversations and the Exploratorium education team.  These trainers are true professionals who know how to craft a learning experiencing for educators that is insightful, engaging, reflective and models EXCELLENT practice.

Tammy, Lori and Zeke are some of my newest favorite science geeks!  You guys have made my NGSS day.

We started the day investigating some kick butt phenomenon at the museum using their simple yet super cool displays.  They had us questioning, experimenting, engaging in exciting conversation and pushed our thinking.

We took time as a team to really reflect on what makes excellent phenomena and why that phenomena is powerful for learners.  They modeled for us how to deliver that phenomena in an elegant fashion.  That phenomena can be found HERE as well as the resource to bring it into your classroom.  This engaging activity is PERFECT for biology or physics classes or as a simple and fun activity to get students thinking like scientists. 

They also had a really cool sound cup activity that we did.  You can read how to do this activity in your classroom HERE!  This is like an amazing first week activity to do with students. It’s fun, gets them talking and thinking and using their senses.  I had a blast doing it and it is really something that any teacher can do from k-12.

BTW:  The Exploratorium has a bunch of FREE resources for teachers to use called SCIENCE SNACKS!  This makes me so happy!  Thank you Exploratorium.  You are epic.

We then took some time as a group to identify what key components need to be in place to ensure effective implementation of NGSS?  Man…that is a powerful question.  Where to begin?  I had a pretty profound list but I think the following sums it pretty well:
  •        Professional development
  •       Curriculum
  •       A clearly stated Vision
  •       How to assess NGSS (from the course to students learning)
  •       Community connections
  •       Stuff ($ to support the transition…equipment)

We also got to pick 1 of 5 areas of focus for afternoon breakout groups.  I chose resources.  And boy howdy did I pick a fantastic topic to work with an equally fantastic group of educators and leaders.  I’m in a group with the amazing Jenna (@mrsJennaRodgers) who is just a firecracker of content and ideas.  We are going to create a resource link for educators to use.  Basically, we are going to compile all the usable websites and resources that we have found and make them searchable.  Sure, it’s a big task…but I’m pretty sure that this group of passionate educators can do anything we put our minds to.

So, something super amazing happened when I got back to the hotel.  I realized that on of my twitter friends (yes, that is a thing) is at the Institute.  And, seriously, this chick is amazing!  @AllieBBogart is a twitter phenom, just like Jenna.  Both of them are continually posting and sharing excellent resources and insight.  So glad I got to meet you in real life!!!! No longer just Twitter friends.  Hehe

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring (actually, I do because they gave us an agenda) but I am super excited.  I will say that my biggest take away from today has been that I am not alone in this NGSS journey.  There are others and the Exploratorium helping me connect with them.  WOOHOO!


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Put Me in Coach (TOSA Training)

One of my roles as a Science TOSA is to be able to support teachers in their classrooms through coaching.  Though I have always loved to collaborate with my peers and I have even led teacher trainings, this idea of a one-on-one coaching session is still new for me.

Recently, my amazing school district sent myself and the other TOSAs to a training to provide us with the skills and confidence to work effectively with teachers.  And WOW was I blown away by our trainer.  Mark Reardon, with The CentrePointe Group, was the facilitator of our meeting.  First of all...Mark is a down to earth, easy going guy, who is funny and engaging.  He not only knows his stuff, but he delivers the content is such a way that the participant discovers the learning.  (HE PRACTICES WHAT HE PREACHES!!!!!!  THANK YOU MARK!!!!) In other words...this wasn't some sit-and-get all day session.  It was an interactive, engaging, thought provoking day that made me wanting more.

Mark led us down a path to reaching what is the role and goals of a coach, how to communicate with someone so that they are receptive to hearing what we are saying, how to identify what to work on, etc.  I had some solid epiphanies throughout the day but the biggest one I had was this:

  • If we want quality learning through student centered classrooms, that comes through baby steps, not complete overhaul.
Now you might say, this isn't an epiphany, this is common sense. But for me, it was a huge moment.  Mark asked us (and I'm paraphrasing here) "Let's assume you just observed a teacher giving a lesson.  You identified areas of excellence and areas of growth.  You have 10 minutes to debrief with them.  What do you say?"

For me, I wanted to jump right to "YOU NEED TO MAKE STUDENTS THE CENTER OF THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE."  But after much reflection, I was wrong.  The idea of student-centered learning isn't wrong, but if that is the end goal, you can't do that in 10 minutes.  I realized that identifying easy, bite sized steps and working with teachers to identify ways to consistently and thoughtfully execute those small changes in their classroom will over time create a student-centered learning environment.

Mark shared with us how to build teacher efficacy.  I realized that my role has me working with teachers collaboratively to put useful tools into their toolbox and assist with how and when to use those tools consistently.

I kinda look at all of this like doing construction work.  You can build a simple shack with a hammer, nails and saw.  It won't be fancy, will kinda do its job, but will have limitations.  But, if you included a drill, level, circ saw, hack saw, square, wrenches, angle grinder, ladder, pliers, etc, then you could build a mansion that goes beyond your expectations.

If learning is the house we want to build, then we need the proper tools to build it.  As teachers, we really need to look at our tool belt and ask ourselves if the saw we have is good enough.  If the hammer isn't outdated.  Learning has evolved and we need the tools to support that learning experience.  If we choose not to acquire those skills/tools, then we really need to ask ourselves why we aren't changing to adapt to the needs of our students.  Are we expecting them to adapt to us?

And for those who say that learning hasn't changed I will offer this little nugget to consider.  Almost any information that you give your students can be found in a google search.  So, students don't need teachers for CONTENT anymore.  They need teachers for how to USE the CONTENT.  (Which is kinda NGSS is a nutshell.)

Teaching is exciting, exhausting, hard, rewarding...  To do the job well, to impart meaningful learning experiences to students, a teacher really has a lot of work to do.  And it is definitely a team approach.  I am so excited that I got the pleasure to learn from Mark Reardon.  I look forward to a second session to continue on my pathway of growth.



Saturday, March 4, 2017

Science TOSA: Month 1

I am spoiled to work in a forward thinking district.  They realized the importance of not only getting started on figuring out a way to get NGSS into the classroom, but they also realized that teachers needed to be involved in that decision making process of what the curriculum should look like.  I have finally been released from the classroom to work with teachers and the district to get the NGSS ball rolling.

A lot has happened in my first month on the job.  Here are my 10 biggest take-aways thus far.


1.  I don't have to get to work 30 minutes before the students anymore.  Usually I'd get in early, set up the classroom (set up a lab, powerpoint, activity, etc), make last minute copies, etc.  Now, I can just show up on time.  Soooooo weird.  I have actually eaten breakfast!

2.  I can go to the bathroom whenever I want.  I know this sounds odd, but I don't have to wait for the bell to signal a pee break!

3.  I am traveling, a lot.  I get to visit all of the school sites and work with my colleagues on various projects.  It is so rewarding to listen to their ideas and collaborate with them to make their ideas come alive.  I feel spoiled and honored to get to know and work with such a cool group of passionate educators that are willing to open their door to me and let me into their science world.

4.  As a classroom teacher, I controlled my day.  I knew when there would be a lab, assessment, activity, etc.  I knew where I would be everyday from 7 until 3.  Now, I live by a calendar.  Each day is different.  I get to wear a variety of hats throughout the day:  teacher, curriculum writer, facilitator, trainer, equipment hunter, lesson planner, etc.  It's kinda exciting but totally different!

5.  I am getting to learn about the behind-the-scenes processes that allow a large school district to function.  I was so happy to see how my bosses value the teacher opinion, desire to hear their concerns, and address their concerns in order to making an amazing learning environment for everyone.  I've also been delighted to hear that the leaders in the district are focused on KIDS!  They are always talking about "what is best for the students" and making all of their decisions through that lens.  So amazing!

6.  I have discovered that I really enjoy writing curriculum, but I selfishly want to teach it!  I love being in the classroom and crafting the learning experience for my students.  Now, I don't get to deliver the experience.  But I do love creating the lessons...oh....and I now have the TIME to come up with cool ideas.  SOOOOO different than what I was used to.

7.  I miss my students.  I really do!  Being in the classroom for the past 13 years has been so rewarding on so many levels.  I was always there for the students.  And now, not being there, with them...it's like a part of me is missing.  I know that sacrificing this small piece will be worth it in the long run because someone needs to do the work to get this curriculum ready and to provide the supports through the transition period...but I really do miss being around the kids.  Their silly jokes, their smiles, their a-ha moments, their stories...I miss that.

8.  I miss my coworkers.  Though I have FANTASTIC new coworkers, I miss the teachers I ate lunch with, joked around with, PLC'ed with, talked to between passing periods....I worked at an incredible school, and I'm missing my school family.  :(  But, I am excited to have been adopted into this bigger family.

9.  I have often times felt like the red-headed step child because I don't have a traditional educational background.  I didn't go to college to become a teacher.  I don't have a masters or EdD in education.  I don't speak education jargon.  But what's cool is that my bosses and coworkers don't seem to care.  They accept me for who I am and what I've done!  They are incredible, powerful, strong-willed people that are the leaders I will learn so much from.  They are articulate and thoughtful and mindful and kind.  I couldn't ask for a better group of people to guide and mold my learning.  And boy howdy, am I learning.  I am seeing education differently...diving and reflecting on pedagogy and best practices. I never had the time to do that while I was in the classroom, at least not in the way I wanted to.  But now, it's part of the job!  I wish all teachers could experience this!  THANK you new coworkers and bosses (though you will probably never read this blog).

10.  I am spoiled to not only have other TOSAs to work with, but also another science TOSA! Having two minds with two different teaching backgrounds and experiences kicking ideas around is PRICELESS!  The coolest part is that we don't always see eye-to-eye, but that allows for deeper conversations about what is best for kids.  WE get to PLC ALL the time! All districts should hire content and pedagogical experts that are TEACHERS to work with TEACHERS.  And there should be at least 2 of the same content area so that decisions are not unilaterally made.  I can't thank Alec  enough for challenging my thinking.  We make a great team.


For those schools and districts who are kicking around the idea of hiring a science teacher to help facilitate the roll out of NGSS...DO IT!  Teachers trust teachers.  We know our plight and we know it well.  We understand the content and what can really be done during the class period.  Giving teachers opportunity for growth and to work together is so critical!

For those teachers wondering if they should apply for a TOSA position....DO IT!  Though I feel horribly guilty about leaving my students, I know that the teacher they hired to replace me is AMAZING so they are in good hands.  My guilt is my selfishness.  The job is exciting and different and rewarding for numerous reasons.  I get to serve my coworkers and the students! I can't complain!
I don't know how long I will be in this position, but being a science TOSA has already allowed me to see education in a different way.  I will become a better teacher because of this opportunity and I'm excited about how I am changing during this time!  This first month has been a roller coaster ride that I would ride again and again!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

NGSS: Preparing Students for Life

“It is my job to prepare students for college science.”  Heck, I know I have said this before, a lot.  We are told to adequately prepare our students for college and/or career.  But does this mean that it is our job to prepare them for college science?

I have begun to wonder, how many of the students that are in the high school classroom will end up completing a college major in a STEM field.  Because if it is my job to prepare students for college science, tons of students MUST be studying science in college.  Right?

I turned to the internet and after a lot of hunting found some interesting statistics.  I had to take some liberties at calculating data (hard to find exactly what I wanted) but I linked in my sources.  What I discovered was SO EYE OPENING that I had to write this up.  If we teachers are preparing students for college science then we are NOT doing what is best for ALL students.  Let me explain with some data.

In 2016, 3.5 million students graduated high school in the US.  Approximately 69% of graduates went off to college (2.4 million).  The percentage was from 2015, but I assume it would be similar for 2016.  It’s awesome to know that such a large percentage of our students are pursuing education beyond their formative years. 


About 1/3 of students in college choose a STEM major.  However, only 18% of all degrees earned in college are non-psychology STEM related.  Which means, of the 2.4 million students who go to college, only 432,000 students will graduate with a science/engineering degree.


  
If you look at the breakdown of the scientific pathways (which has changed over the years) then you find the data for those who acquire a science and/or engineering degree is as follows:

 7% biology/biomed (168,000)

6% Engineering (144,000)

 6% Math/Physical Science/Computer Science (144,000)




There is a chance that I am misinterpreting the data.  But, assuming I am correct, then I am going to take some more liberties and show you what this means for the high school science classroom.

Let’s assume you have 36 students in a science class.  24 will go to college.  Four out of those 24 kids will complete a major in science, engineering or math.  This means that 4 out of 36 students will pursue and complete a STEM degree.  That's only 11%!  Only 11% of all students!!!!!!!!!!  





Out of 36 kids in a class, only 4 will go off and study and complete a STEM degree?!  WTF?!?!?!?!?!?!   WOW!  In truth, there is a very good chance that your class (whether it is biology, chemistry, oceanography, physics, etc) is the VERY LAST TIME a student will have the opportunity to learn about that topic in a formal setting.  WOW! WOW!  WOW!  If we are teaching our classes with the mindset that it is our job to prepare them for college science, then we are neglecting about 89% of our student population!  ACK!  This is NOT equity!

As teachers, we need to ask ourselves, what do we hope the students take away from our science class? Are the steps of photosynthesis really that critical?  Is the ability for a student to recite the periodic table a life skill?  Is memorizing the equations to solve for kinematics an absolute necessity?
OR…

Should we focus our energy on getting students to do the following: 
  • ask good questions
  • design and perform an experiment (useful in everyday life)
  • collect and analyze data
  • have an opinion but support it
  • acquire information and share it
  • explain why things work and if it breaks figure out how to fix it
  • use basic math skills
  • use and interpret drawings/maps/diagrams

Oh wait…these are the science and engineering practices.

I’m not saying that the content of science isn’t important.  I LOVE myself some cellular respiration and it is important for students to know why they need oxygen!  But they don't need to know the molecular steps involved.  They don't need to know the names of the enzymes that are a part of the electron transport chain.  That is something they can look up and if they choose to study molecular biology, then they will learn those names.  We need to realize that teaching students to memorize content does not mean they understand concepts.

Students have the ability to look up ANYTHING we ask them.  They can literally find answers to almost any question we could propose.  So shoveling information into them in a form of a lecture day in and day out isn’t necessarily the best use of time.  However, showing them how to find good answers, how to use those answers, and how to determine if those answers are valid….well, now that is a useful skill.  

I was recently told the following.  “It sounds like NGSS will water down the sciences.”

I will respectfully disagree.  I believe that NGSS will provide our students with a skill set to do ANYTHING they want to do with their life.  Science isn’t just content.  It is embedded with invaluable skills.  If we teachers do our jobs well, then we will year after year utilize our content area expertise to embed these lifelong skills (science and engineering practices) into the future of our nation.  I would rather have a nation full of science-minded and skilled members that never went to college, than a nation full of college graduates who have no skills.

So I will change my approach.  It is NOT my job to prepare them for science in college.  It is my job to prepare them with skills for LIFE through the lens of science!