he Vista Unified School District received $480,000 grant to refine its current approach to teaching the state science requirements in elementary and middle schools, and develp a model for other districts to follow.

The four-year grant is intended to promote the successful teaching of the new requirements, the California K-8 Next Generation Science Standards.  They are part of new nationwide standards which establish a rigorous hands on learning eperience for students.

Creating a Model for Successful Teaching of Science Requirements

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“It’s 180 degrees from where we were before,” said Kathy DiRanna, statewide director for the K-12 Alliance, which is providing the grant. The alliance, a program for science and math educators, is part of WestEd, a nonprofit educational research, development and service agency.

DiRanna described the old standards as requiring students to learn discrete pieces of information, such as the names of rocks and what placenta does in umbilical cords, while the new standards are about discovery.

As an example, she said, a second grader may learn that vegetation needs water and sunlight by walking through the playground and discovering that some plants are healthier than others.

In another change, the state board of education has adopted the integrated model for middle school as the preferred version of the New Generation Science Standards.

As opposed to the past discipline-specific model for middle school, where students in different grades studied either earth, life or physical science, students in grades 6-8 study all three in the integrated model, similar to elementary grades.

Creating a Model for Successful Teaching of Science Requirements

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Jeanie Luckey, deputy superintendent of instructional services in Vista Unified, said the grant was designed to help the district “see what works and what doesn’t” when teaching to the new standard.

“I really believe the intent of this money was to figure it out,” she said.

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