Next-gen science education

Science education should be deep, engaging and coherent, declared a National Research Council panel, which issued a new framework for science standards. Achieve, a nonprofit, will design the “next-generation” standards, which advocates hope will be adopted by most states.

Common Core Standards, now adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, cover English Language Arts and math only, notes Ed Week.

The framework is built around three major dimensions: scientific and engineering practices; cross-cutting concepts that unify the study of science and engineering; and core ideas in four disciplinary areas—physical sciences, life sciences, earth and space sciences, and engineering, technology, and the applications of science.

Framers hope to return science to the K-3 curriculum and to add engineering and technology in the K-8 grades to “provide a context in which students can test their own developing scientific knowledge and apply it to practical problems.”

The report calls for focusing on core scientific ideas and teaching problem solving rather than “just memorizing factual nuggets,” the New York Times summarizes.

“That is the failing of U.S. education today, that kids are expected to learn a lot of things but not expected to be able to use them,” said Helen Quinn, a retired physicist from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif., who led an 18-member committee that spent more than a year devising the framework.

The committee hopes “to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science,” the report states.

Do our students know too many facts? It makes sense to focus on understanding core ideas and applying knowledge to solve problems, but it sure helps to have some knowledge to apply.

Update: The computer scientists want to add computer science to the curriculum.


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  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    Not memorizing some factual nuggets….
    Doing it again.

    As for problem solving, thinking of the science test. Why doesn’t the wind cool off crossing Lake Michigan. Presumes facts not in evidence. Some guests went to town–Grand Haven–and came back saying it was ten degrees hotter there than here.
    Problem to be solved: How come adults are continually trying to BS the kids?

  2. Yahoo! Another panel of “experts” telling teachers what to do-despite not one teacher on the panel of experts. Hello? What do you think I do, just about everyday? My students analyze graphs, interpret data, make conclusions, develop hypothesis and predictions, think through problems. Hello?? Are you “experts” listening?

  3. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Richard– Obviously it’s the heat given off by all the fudge shops, popcorn stands and tourists!

    After all, the state park in Chesterton, IN is always a few degrees cooler than places further from the lake–but they have no boardwalk!

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    Could be the evaporating sunblock provides a kind of sink for solar radiation which floats inland, heating up the rest of the state.
    Speaking of which, our guests included four kids, all fair, who spent three and a half hours on the beach under a bright sun. In the old days, they’d have been blistered. These kids didn’t even look the slightest bit pink.
    Good stuff.

  5. I guess there are places where all that is happening in America is memorizing of science facts, but not where I live. That would mean that my kids in elementary school were actually required to learn something in science.

  6. add engineering and technology in the K-8 grades to “provide a context in which students can test their own developing scientific knowledge and apply it to practical problems.”

    I doubt that most K-8 teachers can understand such things, let alone explain them coherently.  Given the low quality of the average ed major, this has the makings of Epic Fail.

  7. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Maybe they just mean balsa wood bridges and egg drops? Or racing cars down hills after optimizing them for speed? You know, the sort of things physics teams and Odyssey of the Mind and boy scouts do?

  8. Well, that’s a risky position! I expected them to declare that science education should be shallow, dull, and befuddling.

  9. Richard Aubrey says:

    First thing we did in college-track chemistry in HS was boil water. We wanted to make bad smells and blow stuff up. Quantum numbers….who cares. But the water issue was to teach us to do an experiment, keep records, record data, and present data in a report. Not bad, although boring and seemingly silly. If you were to present this to a bunch of laymen, the whole thing would get a raspberry. But it was valuable, although we didn’t think so.

  10. Mark Roulo says:

    “First thing we did in college-track chemistry in HS was boil water.”

    One of the things that suck about this sort of demonstration is that you can easily extend it to something interesting (while still teaching the keep records, record data, etc), but this sort of extension seems to be skipped most/all the time [I certainly don’t remember anything interesting from HS chemistry]. Step two would be “boil ethanol.” Step three would be “boil a mixture of water and ethanol.” The results should be surprising. This could also teach the lesson of why you do experiments to see what REALLY happens.

  11. Richard Aubrey says:

    Boil ethanol. We used open flames. Are they still using Bunsen Burners or whatever they were? I don’t recall if the chem lab was sprinklered.
    If I had to guess, the prof was telling us that science isn’t all fumes and flames.
    After that, we went to what you’d do if you had a chemistry set in your basement, more or less, along with the lecture stuff.
    And if didn’t matter if we were exasperated with the boiling water. We were on college track and dumping the class because of something so minor was inconceivable.

    Changing subject. Anybody hear of AVID?

  12. Mark Roulo says:



  13. Richard Aubrey says:


    That’s it. My daughter went to a presentation or workshop last month.
    Is there any data on its results independent of the promoters?

  14. Jill Bell says:

    We’ve had an AVID program at our high school since it opened and I’ve heard of it at many other high schools. Don’t have much data on it…the kids who have been in my Pre-AP and AP math classes that were in AVID were the weaker students, but they held their own and passed. I don’t know how much AVID played a part of it, though.

  15. I’m interested to learning the details of the suggested program. I took some computer science courses my junior and senior year and found them useful.