California’s Science Curriculum Framework Revision and Education and the Environment Curriculum
Posted: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014
by Will Parish
As you may already be aware, California’s Science Curriculum Framework revision process is well underway. This topic is of keen interest to me on two levels: as a former high school Environmental Science teacher (and former member of California’s Instructional Quality Commission), and as current Executive Director of Ten Strands—a San Francisco based nonprofit whose mission is to ensure that all California’s K-12 students have access to high quality, standards-based environmental education.
The state laid out an inclusive process encouraging the public to comment on the final recommendations to the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee. Ten Strands has been an active participant through attendance at multiple focus groups, and by enabling Dr. Gerald Lieberman to play a key role in the process. We were pleased to see the Environmental Principles and Concepts (EP&Cs) that underpin the EEI Curriculum included in the draft guidelines for the Framework.
The EEI Curriculum, developed as a result of the Education and the Environment Initiative (AB 1548), is a landmark environment-based science and history-social science curriculum for California K-12 schools. It is a free resource, consisting of 85 state-adopted and approved units that complement existing instructional materials, allowing teachers to substitute curriculum units for portions of the textbooks they are currently using. This approach enhances student learning by bringing engaging environment-based lessons into the classroom and building student knowledge about human interdependency with the environment as they progress through the grades. The Curriculum cultivates an understanding of fundamental environmental issues, including where our food, energy, and water come from and the complicated decision-making processes related to climate change, green chemistry, and use of public lands.
Working closely with Cal Recycle’s Office of Education and the Environment (OEE), Ten Strands has greatly increased OEE’s ability to get the Curriculum into classrooms and train teachers in how to use it effectively. During the 2013-14 school year, 3,000 teachers taught 145,000 students EEI Curriculum units. We also provided support for showing the tight correlation of the Curriculum to the Common Core State Standards, and are currently supporting correlation to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
California’s adoption of the NGSS is a driver of the science revision process, and the Environmental Principles and Concepts are very timely and significant in this discussion. The goal of the EP&Cs is to examine the interactions and interdependence of human societies and natural systems and provide the framework of what California students should be learning to build environmental literacy. The substance of the EP&Cs are consistent with the conceptual shifts embodied in the K-12 Science Framework, and are embedded throughout the NGSS. Additionally, the EEI Curriculum (built around the EP&Cs) provides excellent support for many of the NGSS science and engineering practices, and for mastery of many of the NGSS performance expectations.
The NGSS Framework identifies seven crosscutting concepts that bridge disciplinary boundaries, whose purpose is to help students deepen their understanding of the disciplinary core ideas and develop a coherent and scientifically based view of the world. There appears to be an especially strong correlation of the EP&Cs and the EEI Curriculum with these crosscutting concepts, as well as with their guiding principles.
The goal that all students should learn about the relationships among science, technology, society, and the environment is also addressed, where the framework identifies two core ideas: the interdependence of science, engineering and technology, and the influence of science, engineering and technology on society and the natural world. It is the second core idea that the EEI Curriculum dovetails especially nicely with, specifically which scientific discoveries and technological decisions affect human society and the natural environment, and that people make decisions for social and environmental reasons that ultimately guide the work of scientists and engineers.
As a former teacher, I understand the importance of quality resources and materials to engage and educate students. When I began using the EEI Curriculum in my high school classes, I recognized it as an important tool. The response from teachers using the Curriculum indicates that opinion is shared—in a recent survey, 97% of teachers using it said they would use it again in the next school year.
Environment-based education is an effective way to teach students using a cross-disciplinary approach. Given West Ed’s findings around the challenges in science education at the elementary and middle school levels, published in High Hopes – Few Opportunities: The Status of Elementary Science Education in California and Untapped Potential: The Status of Middle School Science Education in California, identifying and supporting pathways into developing scientific thinking in students early in their education is especially critical. Using the EEI Curriculum in concert with suggested extensions, including inquiry-based and project-based activities, can help to fill the need for early science education.
Supporting such pathways and collaborating with teachers, state and local entities, community organizations, and informal education providers is how Ten Strands is helping to identify and achieve common goals. We share a vision where all California’s students have a solid foundation that encourages critical and scientific thinking with a strong component of environmental literacy as they strive toward a sustaining future.
You can find out about upcoming EEI training opportunities at http://www.californiaeei.org/training/
Will Parish is the Executive Director at Ten Strands, and is a member of CSTA
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…