Over the last few months I have spoken with four high school science teachers. Apparently we are up and running with the common core in some states, but not in others. One does not have far to look to see that the method of instructing our younger students will “trickle up” to high school, however, how can it happen now? Crash courses on reading science textbooks will not make it happen, project and lab based instruction can bring science to life when the teacher and parent become engaged.
The Common Core emphasizes problem-solving skills and project-based learning, especially in the lower grades. Too often science is put on the back burner in elementary school, and that can leave students struggling as they move to the more complex upper level classes. The marriage of math, science, and literacy are critical to the success of the common core.
However, if you hear about yet another set of standards released this past year, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) draw on decades of education research, aiming to improve U.S. students’ performance in STEM (science-technology-engineering-math) subjects. These standards layer on top of the common core to encourage the use of scientific thinking and inspire young learners towards careers in science. For me, the biggest obstacle to passing Chemistry was memorizing the periodical table. If I had been exposed to even one element of the periodic table in elementary school, seeing CO2 would have been associated with the air I breathe out, not a letters and numbers in a crowded table.
Many of us remember the most fun part of science was the experiments. I wonder how many recall why we did them (goal), how we actually carried out the process (performance, self monitoring, and predicted outcome), and what steps led to our success ( reflection and attribution). I have thrown a few self regulatory words in here and that is where I see science education going. If you ask science teachers who have been fostering self regulation you will find many who use problem solving strategies to teach and inspire the learning of scientific facts. Whether in elementary or high school, this is the way to teach science. We need to learn from these teachers what is exciting and what is working.