By JAYNE CHUNG
A new science education standard known as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is coming to California schools in the next few years.
The NGSS emphasizes skills such as critical thinking and inquiry-based problem solving and moves towards a more student-centered, hands-on environment that encourages students to think for themselves and collaborate with their peers.
The ultimate goals of the NGSS are to allow students to develop an appreciation of the sciences both in and out of the classroom and have the proper skills and knowledge to enter careers of their choice that are not limited to those in science, technology, and engineering.
The NGSS will be gradually integrated into the California curriculum over the next three to four years, and all public schools and teachers will be implementing the standards by the 2019-2020 school year.
In the near two decades since the last state science education guidelines, the vast improvements in the fields of science compared to the deficiency of students entering STEM majors and professions have necessitated the creation of the NGSS not only in California but all over the nation.
One major change associated with the updated curriculum is the increased presence of Engineering teaching in the classroom. .
“‘Fail fast, fail early and fail often’ is the mantra behind the iterative process that engineers go through to solve problems.” Mr. Tinh Tran (Science Dept.) said. “With each cycle they learn more about the thing they are working on and improve it. It’s a really useful skill to think like an engineer no matter what field one goes into.”
Unique aspects of engineering such as the ability to identify and overcome problems are especially emphasized. The critical thinking and problem solving skills associated with Engineering are seen by many as an example of how the NGSS will go beyond traditional science education.
Many science teachers at UHS are already applying aspects of the standards to the curriculum.
“We are taking all labs and trying to put more in the hands of the students.” Mr. Tim Smay (Science Department), who teaches both AP and CP Physics, said. “Projects such as designing gravity cars and egg drops are new standard-focused modifications to the CP Physics curriculum.”
Smay also expressed concern with the challenge of adjusting the AP curriculum, which must strictly follow the College Board guidelines, to the new standards.
However, the standards are not only concerned with fostering interest in science and engineering. The standards will also act as a necessary foundation upon which schools can effectively prepare students for the rigor of college and the demands of their careers.
“In order for IUSD graduates to be ready for college, career, and citizenship, we hope to inspire all students to take three years of [NGSS] high school science and math by providing real world, meaningful, interdisciplinary and exciting STEM courses,” Kristen Winn, Director of STEM Education for IUSD, said.