Palo Alto Unified School District Elementary teachers will begin shifting to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) over the next few years while frameworks, assessments, and materials are still in development at the state level. PAUSD is in the stage of deliberately “building awareness” of the NGSS among teachers, administrators, and the parent community. We are building awareness through our participation with the South Bay FOSS Consortium (a science collaborative of approximately eight districts in the Bay Area), the PAUSD STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) Inquiry Group, continued participation in professional organizations, support of new initiatives that align with the NGSS, and parent education opportunities.

Through our participation in the South Bay FOSS Consortium, we are focusing first on the NGSS Engineering and Science Practice Standards. The Consortium is developing a first training to be delivered February 2015. It is designed for teachers well grounded in FOSS kit implementation who are looking to begin moving their science practice to align with the NGSS. Further information, including registration for the training, will be sent out to PAUSD teachers later this school year.

The PAUSD STEAM Inquiry Group (formerly STEM Leadership) started raising awareness of the NGSS in school year 2013-2014. A small group of teachers, TOSAs, and administrators learned about the basic components of the NGSS (the three “dimensions”—practices, cross-cutting concepts, core ideas) and the Engineering Design Process.  From this learning, they then developed a science unit incorporating NGSS or Engineering Design process knowledge to align the lesson with the new standards. In the current school year the STEAM Inquiry Group is participating in a variety of innovative group experiences about NGSS, design thinking and ties to the
Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in order to build teacher capacity and knowledge. Participants are asked to share their knowledge, both formally and informally, of the NGSS with colleagues and sites.

Attendance at National Science Teachers of America (NSTA) meetings over the last two years has allowed small groups of teachers the ability to gain further knowledge of the NGSS and ties to CCSS.  This year over 30 K-12 teachers will attend the regional conference in Long Beach in December, allowing them an opportunity to deepen and align their practices.

The focus of Elementary Summer School on STEM was a turning point in shifting teachers’ awareness to NGSS. Summer School teachers had the opportunity to gain an initial understanding of the Engineering Design Process and to incorporate it into their goals for student learning.

Maker Spaces and “making” in elementary classrooms has afforded students the experiences in the Engineering Design Process (part of the NGSS) as well as tinkering for creative purposes. Currently, there is one established Maker Studio (Barron Park); however, “making” is happening in many elementary classrooms across the district.

Refer to this diagram for more information about the links between Science and Engineering, Math and Language Arts. Triple Venn Diagram of Practices

For more information about the three “dimensions” of the NGSS visit the NGSS website: http://www.nextgenscience.org or click here Three Dimensions Framework

If you have questions, contact Elementrary Science TOSAs, Leslie Faust lfaust@pausd.org or Joe Young jyoung@pausd.org.