Earth Science Struggles at Wapato

Theresa Bell, Wapato High School

Hello, I am Tee Bell. I teach at Wapato High School, a public 9-12 high school with 850 students on the Yakama Reservation. We are about 2/3 Hispanic, a quarter Native and the remaining small percentage is Filipino, white and mixed. About 25-33% of our students, depending on the year, are Bi-lingual, but most are not at grade level in either language (Spanish or English).

We do not have a dedicated "Earth Science" class at our high school. We have been arguing with our District Curriculum Director for several years now, trying to convince the district that with the new NGSS standards and the new Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science coming (now here), we needed/need a dedicated Earth Science course, at least a semester in length, for our freshmen. Our current Curriculum Director wants to wait and see what other districts/states are doing with NGSS before adopting any new curriculum. We are supposed to adopt curriculum every 7 years. We are currently 10 years with our old curriculum, playing this wait-and-see game.

Our current course offerings in Science are actually quite extensive. We offer: Physical Science (9), Biology (10), Chemistry, AP Biology, AP Physics, Environmental Science, UW Environmental Science Forests and Society (semester), UW Environmental Science Wildlife in the Modern World (semester), Principles of Biomedical Science (PLTW), Human Body Systems (PLTW), Medical Interventions (PLTW), Biomedical Innovations (PLTW). We also have Introduction to Agriculture, and Botany. The typical non-college bound student takes: Physical Science, Biology, then Ag, Chemistry or Environmental Science. College Bound Students take: Principles of Biomedical Science, Biology, Chemistry, and then multiple other science electives.

As far as covering the NGSS Earth Science Standards go, we do a pretty thorough job covering HS-ESS3: Earth and Human Activity in Biology class, so all students get this information. We also cover part of HS-ESS2: Earth's System in Biology, particularly 4, 6 and 7. We are weak in making these quantitative and having students develop their own model. We do cover the DCIs pretty thoroughly. We also cover the majority of ESS3 in the Environmental Science classes, both regular and UW level, and in AP Biology, so about 30% of the students will get those standards a second time. In the course outline for Physical Science we have scheduled ESS1 at the end of the school year. Unfortunately, our instructors have not reached that unit in nearly 7 years, due to the slow pace of the students, but also the number of school days lost to testing, conferences, assemblies, and other interruptions. Our Environmental Science class touches on a few of the DCIs for ESS1 and ESS2, but it is not extremely in depth.

We have had a strong relationship with the GEAR-Up program over the last several years. They provided the funds for the purchase of Laptop carts for our science teachers. Of the six science teachers in our building, four of us have 28 laptops provided by GEAR-Up. The other two teachers also have one –to-one computers for student use. We have also collaborated with Heritage University and the MESA (Math, Engineering, Science Achievement) association in the past. We currently collaborate with University of Washington Environmental Science Resource Management department for college in the high school coursework. This fall we are trying to start up a relationship with Yakama Forest Products, they approached us, to get more students interested in Field tech and Forestry careers.

With the development and implementation of NGSS we as a department are working more on using phenomena to guide student learning. We have also been using a lot of outside resources in our Biology class, going to more of a thematic unit approach guided by the DCIs. I and one other teacher have been reworking our curriculum to integrate more of the science and engineering practices, modeling, and mathematical thinking in particular. Not a lot is being done with our upper level classes when it comes to integration of NGSS. We realize this is a downfall, but there are only so many hours in the day and without published integrated materials we can only do so much.

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Earth Science Struggles at Wapato (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 31kB Jul9 18)