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 Science Collaborative (a consortium 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 Science Collaborative (formerly the South Bay FOSS Consortium), we are focusing first on the NGSS Science and Engineering Practice Standards. The Collaborative delivers a series of three workshops each school year. The professional learning workshops are 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, can be found on the South Bay Science Collaborative website.
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 developed science units and lessons incorporating NGSS or Engineering Design process knowledge to align the our current science curriculum 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 few years has allowed small groups of teachers the ability to gain further knowledge of the NGSS and ties to CCSS. Attendance and participation in the STEAM TOSA Network at the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) have also allowed teachers and TOSAs to effectively integrate NGSS across the field. Attendance at the California STEAM Symposium the past two years have allowed TOSAs to continue to deepen their understanding of NGSS, expand their professional learning support, and share the work of the district.
The focus of Elementary Summer School on STEAM since 2014 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.
Makerspaces 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 are three established Makerspaces (the Maker Studio at Barron Park, the Design Studio at Fairmeadow, and the Makerspace at Walter Hays); however, “making” is happening in many elementary classrooms across the district. All other PK-5 schools have been provided Maker Carts through a partnership between the Elementary Education Department and the Advanced Authentic Research Department (AAR). The "Creativity Carts" are equipped with a variety of innovative materials, gadgets, and supplies. The AAR vision is to engage students in guided and personalized projects that promote the cultivation of skills in respect to design, research, and development of self-advocacy.
Refer to this diagram for more information about the links between Science and Engineering, Math and Language Arts. Triple Venn Diagram of Practices