In order to strengthen science curriculum and incorporate engineering practices in the classroom, District 204 is applying the Next Generation Science Standards, adopted by the state of Illinois in 2014, which are less about memorizing and more about figuring things out.
“As the teacher, we’re focusing on getting the students to create the questions, and then answer the questions. Students, and people, are naturally inquisitive, so with this new style we’re trying to tap into that curiosity,” said Carl Tornberg, District Curriculum Writer and Science Teacher at Fischer Middle School.
The curriculum revolves around three-dimensional learning: introducing new content, crosscutting concepts that apply to every area of science and implementing engineering practices.
“The driving force behind an NGSS aligned assignment is to determine a phenomenon, something that you’re curious about in the world, and then explain it through a series of questions, investigations and research. So you’re using your practices to investigate phenomenon,” said Mary Kelly, Director of Core Curriculum for Indian Prairie School District 204.
At the middle school level, standards aren’t set by each grade, instead they outline science concepts students should know by the end of eighth grade, and some teachers have already brought the new learning style into the classroom.
“It’s been great. It’s increased student engagement, instead of just rote memorization and notes, the students have a vested interest in answering their own questions,” added Tornberg.
Moving forward, the district will provide professional development for elementary, middle and high school science teachers.
The next step will be for the district to approve the purchase of new science textbooks at the March 7 board meeting to roll out the curriculum for the 2016-17 school year.
Naperville New 17’s Rachel Pierson reports.
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