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With globalization and the rapid growth in science and technology, it is important for our education system to match the pace. But how? Implemented in 2013, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) aim to accomplish that. But, many science educators have asked: What does an NGSS-designed lesson look like? What support would teachers need to integrate NGSS, and how would they assess the students’ understanding of three-dimensional learning?
The American Museum of Natural History has collaborated with the SEPUP program at the Lawrence Hall of Science, the University of Connecticut, and WestEd to develop Disruptions in Ecosystems: Ecosystem Interactions, Energy, & Dynamics, a model instructional unit and professional development program that aligns with NGSS.
This model unit focuses on middle school ecology, particularly on specific phenomena related to ecosystem disruptions. The unit has five chapters, each focusing on two to three performance expectations. The project also provided professional development to support field-test teachers who were teaching the unit in their understanding and implementation of the NGSS in their classrooms.
The project partners have conducted two rounds of classroom field-testing and expert review. A third round of field-testing is being conducted during the 2017–2018 school year. The field tests include 25 middle school teachers based in New York City who undergo 12 days of intensive professional development and then implement the curriculum in their classrooms. Feedback and student work samples are collected to help with revisions to create a more robust curriculum. Achieve used the EQuIP review process to review the curriculum and rated it as an example of High Quality NGSS Design If Improved.
“The three-dimensional learning envisioned by the NGSS presents several challenges to teachers,” says Barbara Nagle, Director of the Hall’s SEPUP group, which led the development of the unit. “This unit and the associated professional development provide a model for teachers of how to integrate the three dimensions of the NGSS and help them move toward more student-centered approaches to teaching science,” she adds.
The Disruptions in Ecosystems unit will be available for free, electronically, starting in the fall of 2018. Integrating the NGSS is vital to quality science learning, and it is integral for teachers to understand how to implement these standards. The hope is that this unit can be used in classrooms everywhere and serve as a model of high-quality materials that effectively integrate the NGSS.