Considering Changes to Your K-5 Science Curriculum?

I recently received an email from a colleague in Randolph wondering about how the Burlington Public Schools and the Burlington Science Center intend to implement new NGSS-adapted state standards across grades K-12. After our initial meetings with the superintendent and all K-5 teachers regarding the changes in curriculum, we’ve mapped out a staggered implementation that I’ve detailed below in hopes of jump-starting a wider conversation to be shared across districts and schools. If you have questions or feedback we’d love to hear from you as there is still a lot of work to be done with plenty of potential pitfalls yet to be uncovered I’m sure! We’re also interested in knowing what your school and district is doing in preparations for this significant shift in science education! Please share in the comments below or get in touch!

The Goal:

Implement one new NGSS(MA) unit each academic year over three years starting academic year 2016-2017.

We are starting summer curriculum work this year with the help of K-5 teachers. We’ll be using the time to consider the standards implications for instruction and assessment. Participating teachers will be asked to identify the knowledge and skills students will be aiming to master using the standards and tools provided by the Massachusetts DESE for this work. Teachers will also help conceptualize project/performance based assessments that will be shared and used with all classroom teachers when 2016-2017 rolls around.

The Science Center’s goal over the course of following academic year is to identify and purchase or construct kits to be piloted with willing teachers next spring for the 6 units (1 at each grade level K-5) that will be explored this coming summer.

The changes have been visually outlined in the Google Presentation present below. As new units are being implemented, units that have been moved to other grade levels or taken out of the curriculum will be taken out so that instruction time can be provided to the new units. We have taken extra care to make sure there are no topical gaps in students learning or repeats of similar content at the same developmental level. To do this was no easy feat and involved a lot of trial and error on a Google Spreadsheet before getting it right!

Meanwhile, the Burlington Science Center is offering a 1 credit course to elementary teachers and specialists interested in learning more about the Next Generation Science Standards and best-practices for implementation in their K-5 classrooms. This course is being offered this spring and next year with the hopes of being an annual option for teachers interested in developing themselves as effective science facilitators in their classrooms. The syllabus for this course can be found here.

About Sean Musselman

Teacher Dad and Burlington MA Schools K-5 Science and Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator. NSTA Professional Development facilitator and author of "Think Like a Scientist: Investigating Weather and Climate" NSTA Kids ebook.
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