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Classrooms to Reflect New Hawaii Science Standards

Posted by Nicole Lanoue on May 17, 2016

Momilani STEM

The Hawaii State Board of Education adopted the Next Generation Science Standards on February 16, 2016, and plans to implement them over a four-year period beginning with the 2016-2017 school year.

At the time it officially adopted the standards, the 50th state joined 17 other states and the District of Columbia in using these new science standards to inform a curriculum more suited to teaching students the skills and practices they need to succeed in higher education and their careers, and become true members of a global workforce. The 17 other states who had adopted the standards included Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. 

According to the Hawaii State Department of Education, it’s crucial that students be given more concrete skills they can use in later life. According to their website:

“It is a priority for the Department to prepare students for the evolving field of science and ensure that they are equipped to tackle global problems... Science breakthroughs and discoveries keep the field of science in a constant evolution. Whether tackling global problems from pandemics to the state's limited resources, it takes the best and the brightest to bring forth solutions.”

The new Hawaii Science Standards will bring student exploration to the forefront of the scientific process. Rather than using canned kits and preplanned step-by-step experiments as in decades past, these standards strive to take student interest, ideas and preference into account.

For instance, a lesson that would adhere to these new standards might ask students to explore reasons for the rise of a disease. In learning about how diseases work, students also learn the techniques that pathologists might use, about natural selection and about how social networks operate (the human-to-human kind, not the Facebook kind).

Such lessons also offer ample room for the teaching of math standards – for instance, data collection and analysis – and literacy – reading nonfiction texts and arguing from evidence, for example. In fact, science is one of the best milieus in which to teach math and literacy, because students are inherently engaged in the process and are therefore more likely to engage with subjects they might normally avoid.

The standards also strive to bring the Hawaii science curriculum into the real world. Rather than asking students to test the hardness of rocks, say, such standards might ask students to consider which minerals would work in the installation of kitchen counters. Such applications not only make more sense to students than disconnected lessons, they prepare them for later life more effectively.

Responding to traditional make-by-number and teacher created procedures, sometimes associated with science class, "this new approach recognizes that science does not follow a prescribed method and that the fun of science is in figuring out the how and the why of the world around us," Lauren Kaupp told the Hawaii State Department of Education.

As a science specialist in the Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Student Support, Kaupp’s role has been to define what constitutes a well-rounded and practical Hawaii science curriculum and how standards play into that. “NGSS is a tool that will help teachers and students makes sense of science, make connections to natural phenomena and apply scientific knowledge."

Of course, it’s crucial that educators have access to NGSS-aligned resources to help them teach to these new standards. Unfortunately, the new standards depart significantly from old ones, and therefore old curriculum is not often easily tweaked or updated to meet the needs of NGSS. To successfully transition, educators need carefully structured lessons and units which combine all 3 dimensions to help them meet these standards and deliver a next generation model of inquiry in their K-12 classrooms.

Are you curious what science curriculum aligned to the new Hawaii standards looks like? KnowAtom carefully follows EQuIP and PEEC guidelines for NGSS aligned science curriculum, and always strive to offer K-12 educators the best possible science curriculum to help them prepare their students with STEM and the 21st century skills necessary for college and career readiness.

Photo Credit:  Hawaii Department of Education

Topics: Next Generation Science Standards, STEM, state-level standards

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