Teacher Reflection: Implementing the New Science Standards
Andrew Hacket is a second grade teacher at Leroy E. Mayo School in Holden, part of the Wachusett Regional School District. He is also one of ESE's Science Ambassadors, a group of educators available to help schools and districts become familiar with the 2016 science and technology/engineering (STE) standards and their implications for curriculum and instruction.
In May 2015, I joined DESE's Science Ambassadors and in doing so became part of an incredible group of K-12 teachers, curriculum coordinators, and administrators, all of whom share a passion for teaching science and developing children's love for science.
We were given the time to dive headfirst into the standards, the rationale behind them, and their implications. As a group, we have created, tested, and presented numerous interactive activities and presentations, all with the goal of helping fellow educators and their school districts understand the 2016 science and technology/engineering standards.
All of this work had me feeling great accomplished, knowledgeable, an expert in my field, even. Then the school year began. Here were 20 budding second-grade scientists staring at me, ready to learn. And that's when the pressure hit.
I had realigned the content of my science curriculum. Tried-and-true, effective teaching strategies were in my back pocket. But that wouldn't be enough. With the adoption of the 2016 STE standards, not only had the content shifted, but the manner in how students engage with the curriculum has shifted as well. The incorporation of the eight science and engineering practices into the standards has made sure of it. Instead of teaching science, now was the time to make sure my students were "doing" science.
Getting started was the hardest part. I wanted a finished product, the whole picture completed. But that was not and is not realistic with all of the other demands on teachers. Instead, I had to settle for just starting.
Printing and mounting signs for each of the eight practices was step one. The daily, visual reminder is more for me than for my students. Thoughtful planning is my next step. Knowing which of the practices I am targeting in each lesson is paramount in effectively helping my students become proficient scientists. Just as each of the standards has a science and engineering practice embedded within it, now my lessons are beginning to as well. Last up is assessment. If I am going to dedicate the time and energy to this new endeavor, I want to have a measure of my students' success. I am now developing performance assessments that highlight a selection of the eight practices, and I plan to use the assessments as we complete each unit. Based on these, I can monitor student progress and reinforce the practices where needed.
To accomplish these tasks, I turned first to the DESE website. Tools such as the STE practices matrix , found within the STE framework itself, were most helpful in understanding what each practice meant for my grade level and for seeing how the practice evolved over time. The Instructional Leadership for Science Practices website is another great resource and provides exemplar videos, case studies, and rubrics.
Student-driven, hands-on science is increasing in my classroom. Each day, the students are learning to take the reins even more, and as a result, they are discovering science and are more invested and engaged than ever before.
The prospect of transitioning curriculum and instructing in a new manner can be an overwhelming task. The best advice I can give is to just get started.