Educators frequently want to know what kind of investment is expected in order to implement NGSS in schools. This is a difficult question to answer.
The Next Generation Science Standards are inquiry-based standards, which inherently require students to be put into the role of scientist and engineer.
That requires certain materials because the NGSS standards are all about investigative phenomena happening in the classroom in real time.
Cost of Materials
Therefore, materials are important to consider.
The reality is, if you have implemented or invested in any kind of kit science program like FOSS, STC, textbook, or resources along those lines, you’re going to pay less at first. The upfront investment is lower, but people often forget about their recurring costs. Somebody needs to maintain those resources and replace the consumable elements of those kits.
Also keep in mind that teachers spend out of pocket anywhere from $0 to $5,000 per year, with the vast majority spending their own money in order to outfit their classrooms. That’s ridiculous. You would not go to a hospital and accept that the doctor runs out to their car to get the gauze and IV lines.
In the same vein, we shouldn't expect that teachers run out to Wal-Mart and spend their weekends cutting bottles just because they're a teacher and we’ve decided as a society that that’s acceptable. This approach is not the foundation of sustainable change.
KnowAtom changes that approach by maintaining materials for districts. In the first year, districts buy their curriculum binders and their online access. All written materials are also available electronically. In addition, teachers receive durable tools such as hammers, digital scales, and infrared thermometers, as well as consumable pieces such as tinfoil, batteries, sand, cardboard, tubes, chemicals, and other materials that get modified or consumed as a result of experimenting or prototyping.
We need to recognize that replenishing materials is something that happens in either scenario, so you can’t simply look at cost alone without taking into account what you’re already spending. In any case, it is crucial that we teach in the best way we can, even if it requires a higher cost.
Districts also need to budget appropriately for continuous professional development because the teachers themselves need coaching. If you're expecting students to take on the role of scientist and engineer, then you're expecting a teacher to move away from a traditional model of instruction to a next generation model of instruction.
If you don’t want teachers telling students facts, showing them demonstrations, and getting them to repeat those demonstrations for themselves, then you need to institute supports for teachers to change the classroom model. If you don’t, you're going to hinder the success and buy-in of your staff.
It’s also useful to remember that not all pedagogical techniques apply to science, so it is important to identify which should stay out of the science classroom entirely (i.e. repeating facts), another facet of instruction with which teachers will need help.
If you're motivated to fund NGSS-aligned materials and resources, the best bet is to look to the friends of your public school system. You can usually find a grant-based community in town that wants to give teachers money to try innovative things. It’s not as hard as you might think to write up a grant, and we offer support resources at KnowAtom to help you do it.
With the proper funding, you will get the materials, curriculum, and professional development necessary to create a truly inquiry environment in the classroom where students become scientists and engineers. If you want to learn more about how to successfully implement NGSS-designed curriculum, check out our blog post, 7 Principles of Effective NGSS Implementation.