The first round of review for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) has closed, and the second opportunity for input is scheduled for February. If you haven’t already taken a look at the updates to the current Framework involved in the NGSS, do it now. You’ll find some exciting developments that incorporate STEM into instructional objectives in ways that help science students be far better prepared with hands on skills and problem solving savvy that are relevant to the needs of the job market today- and for the future.
NGSS interweaves science and engineering together to make both topics far less abstract since they are recognized as complementary rather than separate disciplines. The benefit it gives teachers is more freedom to pursue project based learning opportunities that will be much more engaging to students and drive their level of interest and comprehension of the processes involved in creating innovative solutions to scientific problems. This should raise the level of achievement on state assessments (and assessments are evolving in parallel to the NGSS by the way) as students raise their awareness of the topics in science and engineering and are comfortable with the vocabulary and processing skills needed to answer complex questions. For districts moving to a proficiency based model, tying in to the NGSS will help guide curriculum changes that make it easy to demonstrate those proficiencies.
The NGSS are expected to be completed by late 2012 or early 2013. Many administrators are aware that changes are coming (though they may not be familiar with exactly what is happening) to science education and teachers should not be caught unprepared. To help prepare, the NSTA is offering a series of webinars from September through December that are designed to make the transition easier. You should be able to get professional development credit in your district for attending the webinars, and you might suggest to your department head/grade level team leader/administrator that the webinars substitute for some of your regular meetings. Unless you like staff meetings. Find out more here, and get ready! The Next Generation is upon us.