The Time to Be Heard Is
by Peter A’Hearn
The first draft of the Next Generation Science Standards were expected to be released by the end of April. Now that it is May 1 and the draft standards have yet to be released to the public, CSTA has learned that the revised release time frame has been revised to mid-May. The review window will be only three weeks long once the draft is released, so please stay tuned to CSTA for word when the draft is available and take some time to study and give feedback through http://www.nextgenscience.org/. You can choose to provide feedback on only the areas in which you have the most expertise. CSTA will be working with other statewide organizations to alert members to public review sessions as well. That information will be made available soon after the draft standards are released.
The Next Generation Science Standards will include the three dimensions as outlined in the framework: core content ideas, scientific and engineering practices, and cross-cutting concepts. This month I will focus on the cross-cutting relationships aspect of the framework. This is a new emphasis compared to the current California standards. The current standards have content (Core Ideas), and Investigation and Experimentation (similar to practices) but no analogue to the cross- cutting concepts. I have heard people complain that the “Big Ideas” got left out of the current California standards. The writers of the NGSS framework address this omission:
Although crosscutting concepts are fundamental to an understanding of science and engineering, students have often been expected to build such knowledge without any explicit instructional support.
The NGSS framework makes them explicit and expects them to be integrated tightly with practices and with core ideas.
These concepts should become common and familiar touchstones across the disciplines and grade levels. Explicit reference to the concepts, as well as their emergence in multiple disciplinary contexts, can help students develop a cumulative, coherent, and usable understanding of science and engineering.
The cross-cutting concepts chosen by the writers are best considered when fleshed out with an explanation. They are:
1. Patterns. Observed patterns of forms and events guide organization and classification, and they prompt questions about relationships and the factors that influence them.
2. Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation. Events have causes, sometimes simple, sometimes multifaceted. A major activity of science is investigating and explaining causal relationships and the mechanisms by which they are mediated. Such mechanisms can then be tested across given contexts and used to predict and explain events in new contexts.
3. Scale, proportion, and quantity. In considering phenomena, it is critical to recognize what is relevant at different measures of size, time, and energy and to recognize how changes in scale, proportion, or quantity affect a system’s structure or performance.
4. Systems and system models. Defining the system under study-specifying its boundaries and making explicit a model of that system-provides tools for understanding and testing ideas that are applicable throughout science and engineering.
5. Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation. Tracking fluxes of energy and matter into, out of, and within systems helps one understand the systems’ possibilities and limitations.
6. Structure and function. The way in which an object or living thing is shaped and its substructure determine many of its properties and functions.
7. Stability and change. For natural and built systems alike, conditions of stability and determinants of rates of change or evolution of the system are critical elements of study.
This set of crosscutting concepts begins with two concepts that are fundamental to the nature of science: that observed patterns can be explained and that science investigates cause- and-effect relationships by seeking the mechanisms that underlie them. The next concept – scale, proportion, and quantity – concerns the sizes of things and the mathematical relationships among disparate elements. The next four concepts – systems and system models, energy and matter flows, structure and function, and stability and change – are interrelated in that the first is illuminated by the other three. Each concept also stands alone as one that occurs in virtually all areas of science and is an important consideration for engineered systems as well.
Chapter 9 of the NGSS framework gives some insights into how the cross-cutting concepts and practices can be integrated with core ideas in a science unit. For example in K-2 students classify animals by the foods that they eat. In doing this they learn the life science content core idea that animals need food to live and grow. They engage in the scientific practice of arguing from evidence to support their classification and presentation of information. The crosscutting concept for this unit is patterns- that animals can be grouped by what they eat. At the other end of the K-12 continuum, high school students working on the concepts of how atomic structure relates to the periodic table are engaged in the practice of modeling, but are also looking at patterns as the cross-cutting concept.
A challenge for many will be that there are not that many instructional materials that have used cross-cutting concepts to connect different area of science. There are some publishers that do use a big idea to connect may ideas together, but most leave the connections for the students to make as noted by the writers of the framework.
Your turn now- what are your thoughts about the cross-cutting concepts? Some guiding questions:
Are these the right concepts to help students to make connections across the sciences?
Do these concepts connect to other disciplines?
What are the challenges of implementing this vision of science education?
How can the use of cross-cutting concepts enrich student learning?
Are some of these more or less important?
Would you have included different cross-cutting concepts?
The purpose of this blog:
We are about to begin the period for public review of the Next Generation Science Standards. The process is being guided by the National Research Council. Twenty-six states, including California, have signed on to be part of the development of the standards and to adopt them when complete. The new standards will represent a big change in how science is taught in California, so teachers should be closely following the development and giving the feedback that comes with their experience. But few classroom teachers have the time to digest and respond to the amount of material that makes up the science standards. The purpose of this blog is to break it down into chunks and send it out a little at a time for teachers to respond to, beginning with the Framework. I will be making comparisons to the current California standards, but science teachers from other states are encouraged to participate. The framework can be downloaded as a PDF from the Next Generation website at http://www.nextgenscience.org/.
Pete A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is region 4 director for CSTA.
by Michelle French
Since the public reviews of the Next Generation Science Standards have come to a close, like many primary teachers, I’ve been wondering what science will look like in kindergarten, first, and second grade classrooms. Learn More…
“SOL Grotto, 2012. 1368 glass tubes, paint. Fabrication: Matarozzi Pelsinger, Rael San Fratello Architects. SOL Grotto is a contemporary take on a grotto or Throeau’s cabin – a spartan retreat that is a space of solitude and close to nature – where one is presented with a mediated experience of water, coolness and light. The SOL Grotto also explores Solyndra’s role as a company S#@t Out of Luck. 1,368 of the 24 million high tech glass tubes destined to be destroyed as a casualty of their bankruptcy, are used in the installation. The tube’s original role as a light concentrating element is extended to transmit cool air into the space via the Venturi effect, to amplify sounds from the adjacent waterfall via the vibrations of the tubes cantilevering over the creek, and to create distorted views of the garden. The form of the electric blue array evokes Plato’s Allegory of the Cave where shadows, light and sounds can call reality into question.”
Responses from Readers:
Peter A’Hearn: Rush hour in little blue circle land.
by Valerie Joyner
Congratulations to CSTA member and STEM Educator, Katherine Schenkelberg, of West High School, in Torrance, CA! Katherine was recently awarded one of the 2013 Vernier/NSTA Technology Awards. An appointed panel of experts selected her for her innovative use of data-collection technology. “The use of data-collection technology in the classroom helps foster students’ interest in STEM education and provides them with engaging, hands-on opportunities for scientific investigation,” said David Vernier, co-founder of Vernier and a former physics teacher. “For ten years Vernier and NSTA have recognized innovative STEM educators through this award and this year’s winners are no exception – their projects and programs truly utilize the power of data-collection technology as part of the teaching and learning process.” Learn More…
by Tim Williamson
Members of the California Science Teachers Association are now in the process of voting for qualified CSTA members to fill the seven openings on the CSTA Board of Directors for the 2013-2015 term.
The election is being conducted electronically and opened for voting on April 16, 2013. Voting will close on May 16, 2013. All CSTA members were sent links to the online ballot. Members for whom we do not have current email addresses or who request a paper ballot have been mailed a ballot and candidate statements. Learn More…