Freeman Science Curriculum Explained
If you’re like some parents I’ve spoken with recently, you may have noticed that your child’s science curriculum has changed drastically since you were in school. Gone are the days of reading textbook chapters and sitting through countless days of lecture. Now, students are learning by doing. This involves exploring scientific phenomena by making observations, asking questions, planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing data, and communicating ideas in scientific communities of their peers.
Like many districts in the state of Nebraska, Freeman has adopted the new standards for science called “Nebraska College and Career Ready Standards for Science” (NCCRS-S). In 2017, Nebraska adopted the NCCRS-S. These standards are based on the “Framework for K-12 Science Education” which was also the foundation for Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) standards adopted by many states. The Nebraska Department of Education’s Vision for Science education is that “Nebraska’s students demonstrate the scientific literacy necessary to be civic minded decision makers and demonstrate readiness for college, career, and lifelong learning. As critical consumers, students gather, analyze, and communicate information from multiple sources and make connections to their lived lives. Engaged in authentic and relevant learning experiences that cultivate a sense of wonder and curiosity, they make sense of phenomena and identify creative solutions to local and global problems.”
Nebraska’s vision for science education is achieved when each student has meaningful access to the educational resources they need at the right moment, at the right level, and with the right intensity supported by high quality instructional materials. High expectations for learning and student achievement are established for each student and carefully monitored over time. Students are encouraged to and allowed to discover and explore their passions and make meaningful connections within the context of their post-secondary interests.
The Framework, and NGSS, is changing the way we teach science. However, it can be tricky for those who haven’t spent much time studying it. Within the NGSS, there are three distinct and equally important dimensions to learning science. These dimensions are combined to form each standard—or performance expectation—and each dimension works with the other two to help students build a cohesive understanding of science over time.
Crosscutting Concepts help students explore connections across the four domains of science, including Physical Science, Life Science, Earth and Space Science, and Engineering Design. When these concepts, such as “cause and effect” are made explicit for students, they can help students develop a coherent and scientifically-based view of the world around them.
Science and Engineering Practices describe what scientists do to investigate the natural world and what engineers do to design and build systems. The practices better explain and extend what is meant by “inquiry” in science and the range of cognitive, social, and physical practices that it requires. Students engage in practices to build, deepen, and apply their knowledge of core ideas and crosscutting concepts.
Disciplinary Core Ideas are the key ideas in science that have broad importance within or across multiple science or engineering disciplines. These core ideas build on each other as students progress through grade levels and are grouped into the following four domains: Physical Science, Life Science, Earth and Space Science, and Engineering.
In 2017, Nebraska drafted a five-year implementation plan. This plan allows for districts across the state to gradually align all grade levels to these new standards. Grades K, 3, 6, and 9 began in the 2018-2019 school year; grades 1, 4, 7, and 10 began the switch this school year; and grades 2, 5, 8 and 11 will begin next year. This spring, students in grades 5 and 8 will take a “field test” for their Science NSCAS, while next year grades 5 and 8 will be officially tested over the 2017 Standards. Juniors will continue to take the ACT as their State Science assessment.