Thursday, November 5, 2015

Creating an NGSS Course

Our district is about to embark on the designing our first NGSS course which is set to roll out next school year: 2016-2017.  It will be a PHYSICS COURSE!  WOOHOO!  Though I am super pumped (I teach physics) I recognize that how we craft this course will set the pace and guidelines for the remaining two courses:   Biology and Chemistry.  Setting it up right the first time is CRITICAL!

I believe that EVERYONE in the science department should be a part of the process of assembling these NGSS courses.  Not because everyone is a great curriculum designer, in truth, that is not an accurate statement at all.  Not all teachers know how to craft curriculum.  But all teachers have to deliver curriculum and they need to have some buy-in on what the course content should include. My hope is that being a part of the process will  allow teachers to want to deliver this new content, plus they can see how all the pieces can fit together.  And if you are in the early stages of NGSS, you know that these pieces are quite different than what science educators are used to.

So, today I asked my coworkers to break into subject matter teams.  I gave them a set of every single performance expectation there is for high school science...all cut out into individual strips.  They were even laminated!  Ooooo....aaaaaa.  I tasked them to assemble what the perfect class would look like for their subject matter.  For example, the biology teachers created a course with all performance expectations they felt could be taught in an NGSS Biology course.  I then gave them sticky notes and told them that once they had all their performance expectations, to attempt to group them according to concepts that would be taught during a school year.

I was a bit nervous because I feared that teachers would merely take the performance expectations that state their topic:  Life Science PEs would go to Biology only.  But instead, there were awesome discussions and these teachers created integrated courses!  Go figure!  The chemistry teachers pulled a healthy amount of Life Science PEs, finding that biochemistry could run as a theme within their NGSS Chem class.  Physics identified quite a few Earth and Space Science PEs to generate a space unit when discussing gravitational forces.   (Thank you Kepler, Newton and guys rock.)  Biology identified many of the Earth and Space Science PEs to drop into a more indepth Ecology/Environmental unit.

There was an overall nice buzz in the room as teachers began to see the potential of new courses evolving.  And there was an agreement that courses could focus on more depth as opposed to breadth. Not gonna was really incredible to see how everyone was working together to do this simple activity!

I would strongly encourage all science departments to partake in an activity like this.  It was well worth the time (which ended only being about 45 minutes).

One thing is for sure....there will be no textbook that can adequately cover NGSS.  The new style science class will end up being a unique experience that simply cannot be found in the pages of a book.  I guess that is what NGSS meant by having students DO science.

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