Last spring, the Massachusetts Department of Secondary and Elementary Education released new standards for Science and Technology/Engineering. Standards are learning goals that delineate the content and skills students should learn at each grade level. Since the standards have been released, our science department, like others in the state, has been dissecting the standards and creating a transition plan to revise our science curriculum to align with the new standards.
What are some key differences with the new standards?
- Major science and engineering practices are defined (how science is conducted in the real world, such as planning investigations or creating models). This provides more emphasis on students doing the work and developing the inquiry skills of scientists.
- At the middle and elementary school levels, the standards focus on an integrated approach to science. This integrated approach weaves different topics in branches of science (earth and space science, physical science, life science, and technology/engineering) together around overarching themes called crosscutting concepts. These crosscutting concepts bridge disciplines and are intended to help students develop a broad-based, scientific view. Some examples of the overarching themes include Systems and Systems Models, Structure and Function, and Stability and Change.
- There is an emphasis on developing evidence-based arguments and reasoning, in coordination with a central focus of the math and ELA standards.
- At the high school level, the organization of courses remains the same, with an increased focus on depth over breadth.
What does this mean for IACS?
The new standards emphasize practices that are in alignment with the mission of IACS and what we feel is important for any of our students to be well-prepared as they graduate to take on a major in science or engineering. As our science department delved more into the standards, we were excited to see an emphasis on science practices, systems thinking and modeling, critical thinking and problem-solving through developing evidence-based arguments.
At the middle school level, we have made the decision to move to grade-level courses for Science and Social Studies project classes. The multi-age configuration of middle science classes has served our program well with the curriculum written as thematic units. That said, as we move to an integrated science curriculum next year, we were concerned that the major themes and coherence of instruction would be lost if we maintained our current structure of a two year looping curriculum.
What are the details of this change?
- Middle school students will continue to go to Science and Social Studies projects for a double block (110 minutes) each semester to allow for the time to delve deeper into hands-on, project-based learning.
- Middle schoolers will continue to loop with their Science and Social Studies teachers, so that they will have the benefits of maintaining much of their teaching team over 2 years.
- The major change is that beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, middle school students will attend Science and Social Studies with their same-grade peers instead of in the multi-age configuration.
- Students will continue to attend advisory in a multi-age configuration given the leadership and mentoring opportunities that this can help foster as students transition to our school.
To read more about the science standards, please reference this article published by the National Science Teachers Association. Please do not hesitate to reach out to MS Principal Melissa Kapeckas if you have questions about this change in our structure or the upcoming changes in the science curriculum.