The Next Generation Science Standards(NGSS) were released this week, including for the first time climate change as a concept deemed integral to K-12 science education.Twenty-six states led the development of Next Generation Science Standards through a broad collaborative process including many teachers and stakeholders. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) establish learning expectations for students that integrate three important dimensions—science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts—effectively builds science concepts from kindergarten through 12th grade, and integrates important concepts of engineering. The NGSS are based on the NRC Framework for K–12 Science Education.( NSTA)
Climate change was included as a core scientific concept, because it “is big enough and relevant enough that when [students] leave 12th grade [they] should be capable of talking about it from a scientific perspective (Storksdieck Director of the Board on Science Education in Climate Nexus). Knowing that a high percentage of teachers in not teaching this content in part because of a lack of confidence and a lack of curriculum, the addition of this new content elevates the importance of preparing climate literate teachers through high quality and climate change focused professional development. This need is additionally, highlighted in a listing of high school science teachers and their subject areas shared through NSTA that shows that less than 10% of them are currently teaching earth/environmental science, the area where climate concepts are most prevalent.
In addition to new scientific concepts, NGSS proposes a “transformation” of how science is taught, emphasizing “testing, debating and revising explanations about the natural world through evidence-based reasoning.” Additionally they “make clear that students should learn and demonstrate their understanding of science is through their ability to use these practices.” (Camins) A lack of mastery and understanding of evidence-based reasoning is indeed one of the reasons acceptance of the science behind climate change has received such resistance. This pedagogical shift in how science should be taught also presents opportunities for providers of professional development to model argumentation- arguing a position from available evidence, (Gabrielsen), as well as hands on science learning.
The release of NGSS inspires some important questions including how and who will implement them, as they are voluntary; how they will be assessed; and finally, what support will teachers need? At the Will Steger Foundation we look forward to continued support of educators and helping them become climate literate and increasing their self efficacy in their educational setting.
More Readings on NGSS