Next Generation Science Standards, which aim to teach scientific thinking as well as knowledge, were announced Tuesday, reports, the New York Times. Science teachers, scientists and federal science developed the guidelines, collaborating with 26 states that have pledged to consider adopting them.
The focus . . . (is) on learning how science is done: how ideas are developed and tested, what counts as strong or weak evidence and how insights from many scientific disciplines fit together into a coherent picture of the world.
. . . educators foresee more use of real-world examples, like taking students to a farm or fish hatchery to help them learn principles of biology, chemistry and physics.
They want students to learn to construct at least basic versions of scientific models — the simplified representations of reality that undergird tasks as diverse as building a skyscraper that will not collapse, designing a drug to treat illness and accurately predicting the effects of global warming.
In addition to the 26 states involved with the standards-writing process, several others are expected to consider adoption. However, the standards’ call for teaching evolution and man-made climate change may be an issue in some states.
“The standards identify climate change as a core concept for science classes with a focus on the relationship between that change and human activity,” reports the Los Angeles Times.
Middle school students, for instance, will be taught that human activities, including the use of fossil fuels and the subsequent release of greenhouse gases, are “major factors” in global warming. A proposed high school standard requires students to explain, based on evidence, how climate change has affected human activities through such phenomena as altered sea levels, patterns of temperature and precipitation and the impact on crops and livestock.
. . . Other topics set for more thorough study include genetic engineering and its real-world impact on food and medicine.
Conservatives haven’t attacked the Next Gen Science Standards — so far.
James Taylor of the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based conservative think tank, told Ed Week the standards are an improvement. “They are more balanced and fair than most educational guides I have seen put out by advocacy groups or self-professed science groups,” Taylor said.
Everyone agrees that teachers will need training to teach the new science standards.