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NGSS 2017 Conference Got Thinking About STEM/STEAM (Apr 4, 2017)

I just returned a few days ago from attending the NSTA 2017 national conference in Los Angeles. I spent most of my time attending sessions in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) strand, given my on-going standards-based curriculum-design work with schools and districts.

During one session a presenter mentioned the Periodic Table of Elements and its organization, which got me thinking….

In 1869, Russian chemist, Dmitri Mendeleev, developed what has become known as the first periodic table. He arranged the elements according to their atomic mass and left spaces for undiscovered elements. His periodic table is a remarkable example of a scientist taking data and transforming it into usable information other scientists could then build upon, which is a hallmark of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs).

The subject areas of science, technology, engineering, and math, commonly referred to as STEM, are embedded throughout the NGSS and ask students to apply them authentically as both scientists and engineers. The cross-over of these four fields (five, if you include Arts for STEAM-based learning) enable students, similar to Mendeleev, to approach complex problems, collect necessary data, and synthesize and interpret findings.

These capabilities are in high-demand in our modern economy. Sadly, following the great recession(late 2007 until mid-2009), STEM job postings remained unfilled, according to Brookings:

“The shortage of STEM workers means that the gap in earnings and unemployment between STEM and non-STEM workers will worsen, exacerbating income inequality across all demographic groups,” said Rothwell. “Strategies to help the unemployed get jobs and low-wage workers improve their earnings should include improving educational and training opportunities to acquire STEM knowledge. Increased training in STEM fields like computer science and medicine will ease hiring for employers and lead to high-paying career paths for workers.”

This is why it is critical that NGSS-based curriculum and STEM/STEAM development must begin at the onset of students’ elementary education years and continue throughout their high school education.

Developing NGSS-based curriculum is challenging, but worthwhile and needed. Likewise, integrating STEM/STEAM into an existing curriculum framework is not a simple task. With any curriculum innovation, K-12 education leaders know they must be mindful of how these curriculum decisions will:

  • Affect their students’ abilities to reach determined STEM/STEAM milestones, while meeting or required NGSS 3-Dimensional education standards;
  • Ensure differentiated instruction and personalized learning opportunities; and
  • Provide adequate and embedded NGSS and STEM teacher training, including advancements in instructional technology.

Just like Mendeleev’s accomplishments nearly 150 years ago, we must create the best curriculum framework from what we know is in our students’ best interests today, and provide innovative opportunities for them by leaving room for future minds to improve upon it.

For expertise in how to design NGSS-based, three-dimensional curriculum and instruction, or incorporate STEM-based learning into your current curriculum development, please contact us at Curriculum Decisions.

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