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October 27, 2021

Exploring the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

We spoke with Dr. Katie Clarke, veteran science educator and the Director of Teaching and Learning for the Worthington, MN school district about the beginnings of the NGSS, and the relevant and applicable standards within the NGSS framework. Read on to learn why Dr. Clarke wholly endorses the NGSS.

Teaching Channel: I was surprised to learn the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) really aren’t “brand new,” as they came out in 2013. From my research, the NGSS took years of development and review by educators and scientists to create K-12 standards for teaching and learning about science. How would you describe the NGSS for people who are unfamiliar with the concept?  

Dr. Clarke: Yes!  The inception of NGSS occurred after the Carnegie Corporation published a report titled, “The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for the Global Economy.” The report informed additional thinking and knowing that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM topics) are imperative in ensuring a society of thinkers and problem-solving. So, the NGSS is a framework of standards that connects science through three main lenses: practices, core ideas, and crosscutting relationships. It’s an approach that develops critical thinking and application through learning science. It goes much deeper than just memorizing science facts! 

TC: What is 3D learning, and how does it fit with NGSS? Something tells me the course isn’t about virtual reality and avatars. 

Dr. Clarke: Virtual reality and avatars are fun, but 3D learning in science is much more!  By putting together science and engineering practices, a technique called crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas, students investigate and learn about a science concept, but they are also building critical thinking skills and understanding how the topic at hand connects to larger science concepts, and to the world.  

TC: In what ways will student learning be positively affected by 3-Dimensional Learning from the NGSS? 

Dr. Clarke: As teachers, we want students to leave our classrooms with a set of skills that will make them successful in whatever career or college endeavor they choose. 3-D learning through the NGSS emphasizes 21st Century skills for students, which are skills that will benefit students long after they leave our classroom! 

TC: What are the teacher benefits of adopting the 3D learning within NGSS, or adopting NGSS holistically? Why should teachers take this course? And specifically, who should take this course? 

Dr. Clarke: As a science teacher, I want students to know how to approach a scientific problem in a critical thinking way. If I invest the time to implement the standards, students can develop and carry out subsequent investigations successfully in my classroom.  The NGSS allows me as a teacher to have an impact on student learning and achievement on multiple subject areas (even the ones I don’t teach) because they have developed a set of problem-solving skills that will benefit them in every subject area! 

It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned science teacher, new science teacher, or someone interested in science in the classroom… this course will give you SO MANY ideas of how to help students tackle complex science topics at both the elementary level and secondary level. I highly recommend checking it out! 

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