What Are the Next Generation Science Standards and Why Do We Need Them?

A few weeks back, we demystified the Common Core State Standards to clearly explain what they are all about. Common Core does not cover science. The Next Generation Science Standards were designed to set a national standard in science and give teachers and their students direction towards college prep and careers in science.

What are the Next Generation Science Standards and Why Do We Need Them? | Steve Spangler Blog

Before the NGSS came into play, the states used the National Science Education Standards from the National Research Council and Benchmarks for Science Literacy from the American Association for the Advancement of Science to guide their state science standards. The standards were high quality and worked well, but are now over 15 years old. In that time, major advancements in science have taken place along with a better understanding of how students learn science.

In 2007, a report from a Carnegie Foundation commission concluded, “the nation’s capacity to innovate for economic growth and the ability of American workers to thrive in the modern workforce depend on a broad foundation of math and science learning, as do our hopes for preserving a vibrant democracy and the promise of social mobility that lie at the heart of the American dream.”

Not surprising, they also found the science and mathematics education in the U.S. was far below expectations and set to leave millions of young Americans unprepared to succeed in the future global economy. In 2009, the United States ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in mathematics out of 34 countries.  In 2012, 54% of high school graduates did not meet the college readiness benchmark levels in mathematics and 69% of graduates failed to meet the benchmarks in science.

Science and mathematics education is not just for students preparing for careers in engineering, technology, science or accounting. In our constantly changing, always updating society, the need for higher education in skilled jobs is much higher than unskilled jobs. Many of the fastest growing career fields involve science and math. Information, technology and knowledge turns over about every 17 months in our modern society. Think about how fast a smart phone becomes out of date.

Normally we teach out of context. The biology teacher is teaching here. The mathematics teacher there. The english teacher over here. And when it’s time to synthesize? Guess what? We aren’t there.
– Fred D. Johnson, Past President National Science Teachers Association.

The National Association of State Directors of Career Education grouped all occupations into 16 clusters. Fourteen of the clusters require four years of science while the remaining two require three years. The message – “to keep all options open and maximize their opportunities, all students should follow a rigorous program in both science and mathematics,” according to the NGSS website.

It’s not just careers that depend upon advances in society.  We face global problems from pandemics to global warming and climate change to energy shortages. The solutions lie in science and technological discoveries and advancement. Our survival is dependent on our abilities to train future scientists and problem solvers.

What are the Next Generation Science Standards and Why Do We Need Them? | Steve Spangler Blog

From all of these needs and demands for the present and the future, the Next Generation Science Standards were born. The NGSS will provide students a content-rich education across the STEM subjects to prepare them for college and careers. This will ensure all students receive an internationally benchmarked science education. They aren’t a curriculum, but a content plan that all students should learn from kindergarten to high school graduation. States and local districts who adopt them will need to develop their own specific content and curriculum.

Science isn’t just a mere bunch of facts. Science is about the way we think about the world. The way we question the world. The way we communicate about the world. Developing that is a huge piece of the new standards.
– Jonathan Gerlach 2011-2012 Einstein Capitol Hill Fellow, U.S. Department of Energy.

Twenty-six states, a 41-member writing team and educational partners worked to develop the Next Generation Science Standards. The framework was developed by 18 experts in science, engineering, cognitive science, teaching and learning, curriculum, assessment and education policy. The framework was then presented for public feedback and opinion. Then state policy leaders, higher education, K-12 teachers, the science and business community developed science standards grounded in the framework. Those standards were also open for public feedback.

What are the Next Generation Science Standards and Why Do We Need Them? | Steve Spangler Blog

The federal government is not involved or funding the Next Generation Science Standards. It is up to each individual state to choose the NGSS and adapt them. They will also individually decide whether to create assessments connected to the NGSS. The 26 states currently involved are Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Georgia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Maine, New York, Vermont, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Maryland, Delaware and Massachusetts.

Why NGSS? from Achieve on Vimeo.


Information in this article courtesy Achieve, Inc. on behalf of the twenty-six states and partners that collaborated on the NGSS.



Warnings of Smart Phone Photos Posing Privacy Risks is True

There have been many posts on Facebook and other social networks about the dangers of posting pictures of your children can inform the general public of the exact location of your children.

No matter if you are an extremely cautious parent who never shares your children’s names online or even you are more relaxed about sharing photos of your children with your online networks, this claim will grab your attention.

We were very wary at first to these claims, as so many of these fearful privacy warnings pop up on Facebook and other networks all the time, but Snopes.com lists this statement as true.

This privacy risk, however, is not new. Smart phones and some digital cameras have saved photo information like date, time, and shutterspeed along with geotagged photos for several years. This information is saved in a file called Exif. Geotagging provides precise information about where the photo was taken and attaches it to the image file. This can be a home address or school. People may have shared photos on a social network or blog not necessarily thinking about the geotag information included in the file.

These fears aren’t as prevalent as they were a few years back. Facebook and Twitter now strip most or all Exif file that contains location information from photos when they are uploaded to their sites. This function was added to help increase privacy protection.

If you upload a photo to another site or a blog, it might still contain the the Exif file and all of its information.

The best way to protect your privacy when sharing photos online is to turn off the GPS feature on your phone or camera. If your device doesn’t know where you are, it can’t attach information to that photo. Most phones also offer the option of turning off the geotagging on photos. To remove the geotag on an existing photo you can use an Exif metadata editor, photo editor or converter program that saves photos without the Exif file.

Easing Back to School Stress – Tips for Teachers

Teachers are some of the most creative people out there. If you disagree, just visit Teachers Pay Teachers or Pinterest. Both community sites are overflowing with classroom, lesson, hand-out, activity and organization ideas from teachers themselves. Here are some of the best ideas that we’ve collected from across the Interwebs from teachers to engage their students and instill a lifelong love of learning …

This video is from Singapore but shares the universal message that teachers inspire and impact the lives of their students. Kids never forget their favorite teachers and the memorable moments from their school career.

Back to School Tips for Teachers to Welcome them back to the classroom. Class Bingo

Class Bingo
The Wise Guys from Creativity in the Common Core Classroom get their students out of their seats and talking with their classmates. “When students get to know each other, they realize they have much more in common that what they thought,” adds the Wise Guys. Students have to talk to their classmates to learn more about them to get a Bingo. The Wise Guys also offer a print out of their Bingo card on their TpT site.

Back to School Night Idea - Guess Who

Guess Who Board for First Day of School or Back to School Night
We found this idea on Pinterest without any attribution but we liked it so much, we have to share. If this is your original idea, please let us know so we can give credit where it is due. Have students write down fun facts about themselves on cards but don’t put their names. Have the class guess who each card belongs to for a “get to know your new classmates” exercise or have parents guess at Back to School night.

Back to School Tips for Teachers | Steve Spangler Science

Giving Tree for Parents
Scholastic has a lot of great tips and ideas for teachers. One teacher submitted this idea to it and we love it – In my classroom, I have a “Giving Tree.” I put up a big tree and cover it with paper apples. On each of the apples, I write a supply item that parents can donate to our room. Supplies range from Lysol wipes and Post-its to dry erase markers. The parents take an apple and return it with the supply. I put the apple back on the tree with the parent’s name on it. At the end of each month I have a raffle for the parents who have helped to make our classroom a success. Last year was amazing! I had an overwhelming response. Needless to say, I am ready to put it up again this year. Submitted by Heather Milani (Grade 4 teacher, Illinois)

Back to School Tips and Activities for Teachers to Welcome them back into the classroom Send Text Messages and Reminders
Sign up for an app like Remind101. Instantly send messages to your students or their parents with homework or field trip permission slip reminders. Keep everyone in the loop by sending one text. The teacher never sees the students and their parents’ phone numbers and they never see the teachers.

Back to School Tips for Teachers | Steve Spangler Science

Give the students a taste of success and encourage them to share the success with others. Back to School Tips for Teachers from Steve Spangler Science.

 Recipe for Success
Kendel from Eating Abroad – Adventures of the Traveling Teacher has several activities for her students to work on in the first days of school. Our favorite was her Recipe for Success. She created a recipe that combines personality traits and behaviors with trail mix ingredients. She makes the recipe while explaining each trait and why their classroom needs them to be successful. When the recipe is complete, Kendel then tells her students that success is always better when shared and gives each child a small portion of success.

Now that they had a taste of success, they needed to share it with someone else!” adds Kendel. 


Back to School Tips for Teachers to Welcome Them Back to School

Welcome Exercises
Mia from Ethical Island – How to Teach Without a Lecture, offers 27 different ways to greet your students in the morning. Get them moving, thinking and collaborating right after the first bell rings.

Back to School Tips for Teachers | Steve Spangler Science

Einstein of the Week
Sue Blevins is a second grade teacher at Rockford Christian Elementary School. She has taught for 26 years and is also an adjunct college professor.   Her 
class has an “Einstein of the Week.”  Each week, one student becomes the class scientist. They choose an experiment and bring all of the directions and materials to class. The students start by asking questions, gathering predictions, doing the experiment and discussing the results with the class. If you think this will overwhelm your parents, you can also choose the experiments and materials and have a student be the lab assistant and help perform it.

Team Building Activities for the First Days of School
We also have shared a lot of our favorite activities to welcome them back to the classroom in the First Days of School. Make bracelets that change color in the sun, build structures from long balloons, and help encourage your students to trust you right from the start with these class team building exercises.

We know we have barely scratched the surface with these amazing ideas. What are your go-to activities to welcome them back to learning?

Back to School Tips for Teachers to Welcome them Back to the Classroom from Teachers and Steve Spangler Science

Is the Hands-on Approach Really the Best Way to Learn Science?

Our focus at Steve Spangler Science is teaching hands-on science – don’t read just about it in a text book, touch it, see it and live it. That’s where discoveries are made and real learning begins.

Should elementary students perform hands-on science experiments or focus on learning science concepts first? | Steve Spangler Science

Some are challenging that focus on teaching science and pushing for more of a foundation in content before going into the lab.  Daniel Willingham (Why Don’t Students Like School?) believes elementary students in particular are novices and are therefore unable to think like a scientist. The only people able to think like scientists are the expert scientists themselves, believes Willingham.

Willingham argues that the only way to become an expert is to have a strong foundation in the field coupled with years of practice and experience. He believes students should write poetry and perform science experiments, but they will not have meaningful and memorable lab experiences until they become a real scientist.

Katherine Beals (Raising a Left-Brain Child in a Right-Brain World) explains that labs are essential for the advancement of science, but questions if they are needed to learn what has already been discovered. In other words, is it better for students to study, hypothesize and question about a specific lab topic and then instead of performing it themselves, read about the experts’ findings? She questions if there is a purpose in re-enacting experiments that have been done over and over. The results have already been discovered, so why have students go through the same motions?

We now teach in a world with science videos, science apps and a plethora of scientific knowledge at our fingertips. There are even programs that will step students through complete labs without the students ever having to touch a pea seed, smell formaldahyde or measure a chemical. Virtual labs calculate the results based on past experiments and give students the data they need while saving money on materials and time spent in the lab.

Steve Spangler demonstrates Elephant's Toothpaste on the Ellen DeGeneres Show

There are the students out there that will jump up and down about this type of learning. They will step through the exciting parts of the lab without actually having to do it. But what about those who love putting on the lab glasses and gloves and diving into smelly, messy science to watch their results come alive in front of them? Even if a result has been proven again and again, isn’t there something in letting novice students make their own discoveries?

A picture of Elephant’s Toothpaste is cool, but observing it shoot into the air and then smelling the reaction is something you can’t get out of a book.

Science is explosive, olfactory and incredibly visual. It’s also tedious, boring at times, full of research and writing and results don’t always come out as expected. Shouldn’t students of all ages get the opportunity to experience a slice of what the expert scientists live everyday? Just like reading the real Declaration of Independence with the actual signatures of our founding fathers while standing in the National Archives makes a deeper impression than looking at a copy in a book.

What are your thoughts about hands-on vs. building a deeper foundation before reaching for that lab coat? What creates memorable experiences for students?



Back to School Blog Hop with Kid Blogger Network and We Teach

We are honored to be a part of the Kid Blogger Network’s Back to School blog hop. It may not be all about science, but it is time to celebrate the return to the classroom and learning for the next nine months. This blog hop includes some of the top parenting bloggers sharing their tips and activities to get everyone back to school.
The Educators' Spin On It
All of this month, we are sharing our tips and a few blogger tips for returning to school. This week, we began with sharing some Back to School activities for teachers to engage and excite their new class about learning and shared Tips for Parents to Ease back into school.
We encourage you to take some time and visit the blogs and their posts listed below while you prep for getting your own kids back to school.