3 -Dimensional Learning ,Cross Cutting Concepts, Disciplinary Core Ideas…these new terms have been plunked in the laps of science teachers all over the country. A new set of state standards, The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), are written in a way that equips teachers to engage a new generation of learners. They are unfamiliar, confusing, and quite frankly, terrifying (at first!).
I think science teachers are a special kind of people. We love to explore and learn, we are filled with curiosity, and we also like to be right. There’s a common feeling I’ve picked up on from my own teachers, other department heads, and countless others in Facebook groups: they are scared of doing NGSS wrong. There’s so much room for interpretation and individual teacher ownership of the standards that teachers new to NGSS are left feeling abandoned and hung out to dry. In addition to that, most districts, even my district in a large Southern California city, have not adopted a new textbook despite adopting an integrated model. Here’s a few things I hope will help you take your first steps toward rocking out with NGSS confidently.
Understand What NGSS is and What it’s Not
At a staff meeting a few months ago, I had my teachers complete a circle map together as a team (side note: I am in love with thinking maps). We talked about the spirit of NGSS and what it IS and is NOT. (See below) I think this helped the teachers feel more confident because they discovered they already knew more than they thought they did. NGSS is not unlearning everything you thought you knew about teaching science. I’m willing to bet you’ve already been teaching in the spirit of NGSS long before you ever heard that one little (big) word.
Find Your NGSS Peeps
There are some awesome teachers trying NGSS in their classrooms and writing about it! Sure, you can look at the NGSS website, but I’ve found a few teachers who are great at explaining NGSS in a real person way.
One of these is Erin Sadler from Sadler Science. She has a great blog with categories like “NGSS”, and “NGSS Newbies”. One of my favorite things there is her “Ten Minute Guide to Reading the Next Generation Science Standards” It’s like having your own personal instructional coach! She’s also committed to really understanding all of the aspects of NGSS and passing along that information to her readers. I totally don’t know Erin or anything, but I think she’s pretty great!
The next NGSS awesome is NGSS Nerd. Juli’s instagram is adorable and her TPT resources are some of the best out there. I used several in my class and especially like her “Be the Engineer” bundle. My 8th grade students completed the challenges last year right before Winter Break and they loved it! (see pic). The NGSS Nerd blog also has some great info for NGSS teachers!
Finally, my go-to TPT store author is Karla from Sunrise Science. The resources from Sunrise Science are solid and her artistic eye makes everything look so great. I’ve been 10/10 happy with every single thing I’ve bought from her. Also, her post about finding anchoring phenomena is worth its weight in gold. Karla, I don’t know you, but I’m fangirling your stuff! Thanks for making great things!
Take a Risk, Ignore the Haters
I’m active in several science Facebook groups and I’ve generally found the collective vibes supportive and warm. However, there are always a few whose comments will drench you in shame and make you feel like you are doing everything wrong. Fear of making mistakes or doing NGSS “wrong” can stop even the best teachers in their tracks. For science teachers trying NGSS in their classrooms for the first time, there is risk. There will be failures, and there will be great victories. Our students will thrive as we try new things with them. They will love engaging with phenomenon and attempting inquiry labs. Things will probably be messy and hard for us science teachers as we lead our students on a new adventure. Friends, it is scary to try new things (especially in front of 35 kids!), but I want to give you permission to try. Just try, and model growth mindset all along the way. Remember that your students adore you, and if you’re doing your best to research and plan NGSS aligned lessons, you’re doing great!
One of my all time favorite people, renowned shame researcher Brene Brown, is full of encouraging quotes about risk and vulnerability. I’ll leave you with this: “It’s worse to spend your life on the outside looking in, wondering what if, than it is to try and dare greatly and risk the chance of failure. Dare greatly; get in the arena and try.” —Dr. Brene Brown
May your teacher heart be full and happy,
Read how I’m rocking NGSS in my classroom here