LAHS Science teachers met during the summer to decide how to implement the NGSS. Courtesy/LAPSF
In the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, “Oklahoma”, the returning cowboy sang, “Everything’s up to date in Kansas City”. Similarly, the Los Alamos High School (LAHS) Science Department wanted to keep up to date with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), so Department Chair Liz Bowden turned to the Los Alamos Public Schools (LAPS) Foundation for help.
The NGSS is a multi-state effort to create new education standards that are “rich in content and practice, arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide all students an internationally benchmarked science education”. The standards were developed by a consortium of 26 states and by the National Science Teachers Association and others. The final draft of the standards was released in April 2013, but the New Mexico version was just released last spring.
The LAHS Science Department was planning to put in the work to align to the new standards over the summer, so LAHS teacher Liz Bowden turned to the LAPS Foundation for help.
Bowden applied for one of the LAPS Foundation’s Professional Book Group Grants. These and other types of grants offered by the LAPS Foundation are a rewarding and low-cost way for LAPS teachers to receive funding they need to better the educational experience for students. Specifically, the book groups allow educators to examine instructional techniques with the goal of implementing new or refined practices in their classrooms and/or broadening their pedagogical knowledge.
The request was for $400 to purchase 12 copies of “A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core ideas by National Research Council”. The book would allow the teachers to start familiarizing themselves with the structure and content of the standards before their summer professional development session.
The overarching goal of the new standards is for all high school graduates to have sufficient knowledge of science and engineering to engage in public discussions on science-related issues, be careful consumers of scientific and technical information, and enter the careers of their choice.
Once a week the 11 LAHS science teachers and one administrator met in Bowden’s Chemistry room to discuss the book. In a team effort led by Bowden, they designed a curriculum to meet the standards and assessments to measure student progress.
“After the book group finished, the next step was to assemble a district-wide professional development task force in the summer to pull all levels together,” Bowden said. “Taking the core topic of ‘energy’ for example, kindergarten students learn that sunlight warms the earth. By the time those same students are seniors in high school, they learn that carbon dioxide limits the amount of energy that escapes from the earth. This is an example of the spiraling curriculum that is part of the NGSS.”
“Having the LAPS Foundation provide these books for us was extremely helpful,” Bowden added. “These days teachers cannot rely on textbooks to cover all the science standards, because the standards are newer than the textbooks.”
The Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation is an independent organization that supports, challenges, and invests in a successful future for all Los Alamos public school students. It raises money through generous contributions from individuals and organizations who share the Foundation’s core values. To learn more about the LAPS Foundation and how to get involved and/or make a donation, visit http://www.lapsfoundation.com or call 505.500.6501.