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: Saturday, January 14th, 2017
The Council of Math/Science Educators of San Mateo County will be hosting the 41st annual STEM Conference this February 4, 2017 at the San Mateo County Office of Education. This STEM Conference is the place to get lots of new lessons and ideas to use in your classroom. There will be over twenty-five workshops and a variety of exhibitors that provide participants with a wide range of practical and realistic ideas and resources to use in their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs from Pre-K to grade 12. With California’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, we are dedicated to ensuring that we prepare our teachers to take on these educational policies.
Teachers, administrators and parents are invited to explore the many exciting aspects of STEM education and learn about and discuss the latest news, information and issues. This is also an opportunity to network with colleagues who can assist you in building your programs and meet new friends that share your interests and love of teaching.
Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017
What follows are several opportunities for science teachers to work with the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) on various projects that have direct or indirect implications for the implementation of NGSS in California. Please consider applying to one or more of the following opportunities.
CSET Field Testing Opportunities
Field testing opportunities for future CSET Multiple Subjects and Science tests are available beginning Dec. 5, 2016. Participants will have the choice between a $50 Barnes and Noble eGift Card or a $75 test fee voucher that may be applied to future test registration fees. For more information, including how to register to participate, please visit: http://www.pearsonvue.com/espilot/cset.asp. Learn More…
Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017
Achieve has launched and is facilitating an EQuIP Peer Review Panel for Science–a group of expert reviewers who will evaluate the quality and alignment of lessons and units to the standards–in an effort to identify and shine a spotlight on emerging high-quality lesson and unit plans designed for the NGSS.
If you or your state, district, school, or organization has designed NGSS-aligned instructional materials, please consider submitting these in order to help provide educators across the country with various models and templates of high-quality lesson and unit plans. Learn More…
Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017
An upcoming Perry Outreach Program on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles, CA. The Perry Outreach Program is a free, one-day, hands-on experience for high school and college-aged women who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine and engineering. Students will hear from women leaders in these fields and try it for themselves by performing mock orthopaedic surgeries and biomechanics experiments. Learn More…
Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017
by Jessica Sawko
January 2017 has proven to be a very busy month for science education policy and CA NGSS implementation activities. CSTA has been and will be there every step of the way, seeking and enacting all options to support high-quality science education and the successful implementation of CA NGSS.
California Department of Education/U.S. Department of Education Science Double-Testing Waiver Hearing
The year started with California Department of Education’s (CDE) hearing with the U.S. Department of Education conducted via WebEx on January 6, 2017. This hearing was the final step in California’s efforts to secure a waiver from the federal government in order to discontinue administration of the old CST and suspension of the reporting of student test scores on a science assessment for two years. As reported by EdSource, the U.S. Department of Education representative, Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary John King Jr., committed to making her final ruling “very shortly.” Deputy Superintendent Keric Ashley presented on behalf of CDE during the hearing and did an excellent job describing the broad-based support for this waiver in California, the rationale for the waiver, and California’s commitment to the successful implementation of a new high-quality science assessment. As previously reported, California is moving forward with its plans to administer a census pilot assessments this spring. The testing window is set to open on March 20, 2017. For more information visit New CA Science Test: What You Should Know.