Teachers and educators are discovering more about how students learn science with hands on problem solving activities. They are also integrating lessons with local resources.
If a third grade class visited Cape Henlopen State Park, there would be a “Wet and Wild Animals” project waiting for them to study.
Different aquatic animal adaptations and characteristincs that help them live in the water would be what they students would study. Then, based on that knowledge, they would design their own creature using what they learned.
This lesson was developed to meet the Next Generation Science Standards by the Delaware State Parks. Next Gen is a separate effort related to the Common Core State Standards for reading and math, building common expectations for what students learn in scinnce class, and how they learn it.
Education leaders in Delaware and the 25 other states that have signed onto the standards hope they will fundamentally transform how science is taught.
In an age when almost everyone has the Internet nestled in their pocket, memorizing facts is less useful, they argue.
“When you work as a scientist, or an engineer, or whatever you do, it isn’t all about what you know. Companies are trying to find people who can innovate, who can solve problems, who can come up with new ideas,” said Ross Armbrecht, a former DuPont engineer and current executive director of the Delaware Foundation for Science and Mathematics Education. “This requires a fundamental rethinking of how we teach.”
Next Gen requires students to master a tightened list of essential concepts – in the lingo of the standards, “disciplinary core ideas.”
They must have the skills to ask the right questions and use the scientific process to design experiments to answer those questions – what Next Gen calls “performance expectations.” Finally, they must be able to cohesively explain what they know and how they learned it.