Hands-on and Hopeful

Nessa Goldman, Sequim School District - Olympic Peninsula Academy

I am excited to participate in the InTeGrate program at Islandwood. This year I am transitioning into a new position, as a middle school science teacher at the alternative school here in the Sequim School District. Previously, I was a STEM teacher at a local elementary school. This experience provided me with many fantastic opportunities for me the to meet with local agencies in the area and see firsthand how educators can get more hands-on science lessons into elementary school classrooms. Over the past year, I connected with the Audubon society as well as NOAA in the interest of collaborating their informal education programs with our curriculum. My motivation is to get our students interested in our local ecology and potentially involved with citizen science projects that are available in the area. Living on the Olympic Peninsula there are many possibilities in this realm. With my new position, I am better poised to take the next step, to help my students and our community.

One program I have been interested in locally is the NOAA Ocean Guardian School program. They offer funding and support for local stewardship opportunities. The primary objective is to develop a project that connects the community to the health of the watershed and/or ocean. It can be anything from a restoration effort to a community garden. What I love about this particular program is that they help to provide the support and encourage schools to find their own meaningful connection to their own project, and it can be easily incorporated into the NGSS. With the class I have this coming year, I hope to collaborate with my students to find a project that speaks to them so we can take advantage of this fantastic opportunity.

I became familiar with the NGSS prior to my position in the classroom. For a couple of years, I worked with Islandwood, as a part of their Urban Education program, and that gave me a great insight as to just how the NGSS can be applied outside classroom curriculum. What I particularly like about the NGSS is that it is applicable, not just in the classroom, but in developing well informed curious citizens. Knowledge of science shouldn't be confined to recollecting facts and learning theories, but it should be a lens through with we see and understand the world around us. I think the NGSS does a really great job of encouraging this, through cross-cutting concepts and broadly defined standards that encourage skill acquisition, rather than information regurgitation. I am still new to implementing the NGSS in the classroom, and I expect I will have to make some adjustments moving into middle school from elementary. I am hoping through this workshop I will garner new skills that will help me to build on my current experience with the NGSS at best be able to apply new tools and approaches at my new school.

In our school district, all the science teachers meet once a month to collaborate and work on curriculum alignment. I think this has been one of our greatest challenges, especially coming from an elementary school level, with very limited time with the students (only 36 hours a year), and many skills to address and develop. Coming in at the middle school level, I am looking forward to having not only more time with my students, but better alignment, as I will have the same students for three years. That said, it will also be challenging to provide the same opportunities to all our students, as we are a homeschool program and so there is a certain expectation that is to be met after school. The NGSS actually has a document that they provide in the interest in programs accessible to all student, though with they encourage the implementation of structured after-school opportunities, family outreach, life skills training, providing a safe learning environment and individualized academic support (NGSS Lead States, 2013). This type of approach comes with both benefits and drawbacks. On the one hand, there are more opportunities for individualized support in our small classrooms; on the other hand, providing enriching after-school opportunities can be more challenging. Either way, I aim to embrace the new challenges my position holds and look forward to adding to my tools and resources through this workshop.

NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States (Appendix D – "All Standards, All Students"). Retrieved from: https://www.nextgenscience.org/sites/default/files/Appendix%20D%20Diversity%20and%20Equity%206-14-13.pdf

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Hands on and Hopeful: an essay (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 15kB Jul9 18)