Community Building through Curriculum Mapping

“Bundling” core ideas from multiple science domains. Saving class time and bringing our faculty domain experts together!

“It takes a village” can be used in several contexts, particularly when it comes to education. While overhauling the Burlington elementary science curriculum the saying has only been reinforced as Wendy Pavlicek and I have leaned on classroom teachers, curriculum coaches, language specialists, and our own professional networks to bring together Burlington’s (mostly) open source K-5 STE curriculum.

So with my middle school colleagues at the precipice of undertaking their own curriculum journey I had the pleasure of dusting off some old PD experiences that helped move our elementary thinking forward. Both lessons were adapted from NSTA Press’ title, “Introducing Teachers and Administrators to the NGSS: A Professional Development Facilitator’s Guide.”

One of my favorite staff experiences from this PD facilitation tool is the Course Mapping lesson found toward the tail-end of the book. It first connects the facilitator with NGSS’ Appendix K, a primer on the three frameworks for course mapping middle school and high school pathways for students. The text then details an experience meant to give teachers some creative, non-binding licensure to freely explore the possibilities of bundling two or more Disciplinary Core Idea elements while generating creative topics that might come together with others to form a course or courses for students.

Graciously, all participants put their personal allegiances toward a “layered” or “spiral” curriculum aside and dug into the challenge, reading Disciplinary Core Idea elements ranging from the unfamiliar to almost second nature. More importantly, the faculty reveled in the opportunity to engage with their peers they rarely connect with due to the all-too-common grade level divides persistent in many schools and departments across the country.

The split squad of grade 6-8 educators managed several delightful and creative associations between physical, life, and earth/space science standards (easily distinguished as such by color.) Many group innocently enough stumbled upon several of the crosscutting concepts (the ‘implicitly’ included third dimension of NGSS-MA) such as matter & energy and natural systems. All groups honored the process, even when I told them to “jumble their hard work all up and try again… possibly by building on the DCIs left behind in the first round.”

As time wound down we taped down each groups “preferred” arrangements for future reference and consideration. The experience not only brought colleagues together, but even conjured some novel models of thinking around the plausibility of breaking away some DCIs from their traditional domains. “Maybe trade the layer cake for a marble cake?” mulled a small group before departing. Such decisions were appropriately left for another day.

If you’d like to run your own mapping and bundling workshop using the Massachusetts middle school disciplinary core idea elements, simply follow this link to my google doc which can be printed, then cut and pasted to fit standard size index cards. Be sure to share with me how it goes via email or the comments below.

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.
This entry was posted in 6-8, Curriculum, Professional Development, Professional Reflections and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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