Core Talk: Counting Down Top 5 NSTA Take-Aways

Goooooood mornin’, Core Talkers!  When the Core Talk Team was just over halfway through the annual National Science Teachers Association Annual (NSTA) Conference,  we thought it would be nice to begin reflecting on our major take-aways thus far.  Counting down from #5…

5) It’s okay: NGSS is hard!

Throughout all of the sessions, presenters have reiterated that the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are tough–and hefty.  These standards take a lot of brainpower to digest and discuss….let alone teach!  NGSS necessitates major instructional shifts as well as sweeping changes in both the science classroom and potentially large-scale assessment. Conference presenters want teachers to own the fact that this is challenging material while—at the same time—not shying from that challenge.

4) All kids deserve all science.

‘Nuff said.

But in all seriousness, students should graduate high school with skills and knowledge in all science domains, regardless of gender, academic track, learning challenges, and geography.  The fact of the matter is that there are students who miss-out on science topics, which means they miss-out on learning and career opportunities.  If nothing else, these students miss the opportunity to learn how to think like a scientist.  The NGSS aim to provide every student with access to all the scientific domains.

3) Phenomena, phenomena, phenomena

Phenomena just may be the buzzword of the conference. Phenomena, unlike activities, are “puzzling events” in which students must explain “how” and the “why” things happen.   Phenomena are often based on real-world situations or events, although relating something to the “real world” does not automatically make it a “phenomenon” in the NGSS sense.  Students must grapple with a question or concept throughout a unit, and this “phenomenal” concept or question should encompass several science ideas. Distinguishing between activities and phenomena and planning compelling phenomena for the classroom have been hot topics so far, and we certainly will continue to see educators implementing this shift.

2) You’ve got a friend in me: Collaboration is key

One trend that struck the Core Talk Team was the amount of collaboration and communication among conference attendees…not just between teachers and districts, but even on the state level!  There is a definite focus on working together to help teachers succeed in the name of students.

1) Know your 3Ds!

What do modeling course maps, developing units, analyzing units and lessons, and creating assessments all have in common?  All of these (and other NGSS planning activities) require solid knowledge of the NGSS three dimensions: disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and cross-curricular concepts.  These three foundational boxes in the NGSS have been discussed at length in all of our sessions.  Working with the 3Ds—being able to bundle them, create a narrative regarding their curricular placement, and identify them within phenomena—is imperative to understanding the NGSS.

Like any good scientists, we’ll be sure to revisit our list of take-aways and see if we’d like to make any modifications or re-emphasize any emerging concepts.  Until then…

…stay classy, Standards Enthusiasts!

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