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Focusing on What Gets Us Moving

I delivered three STEAM programs this summer: Robots and Drones, Forensic Science, and Space Science. They took a lot of preparation, and they went great with the kids, but I wasn’t entirely satisfied because I did not follow the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) when setting them up. This is from the NGSS website:

There are three distinct and equally important dimensions to learning science. These dimensions are combined to form each standard—or performance expectation—and each dimension works with the other two to help students build a cohesive understanding of science over time.

I didn’t follow the standards because I was not familiar enough with them, and didn’t have a lot of time available before the summer. I thought I’d go with my experience, and I would work on it after the programs and before preparing the next ones.

That after came today. This evening I had a consulting session with Tiffany, from the Portland Metro STEM Partnership and Stem Beyond Schools. It was a short session, but it changed my approach to NGSS completely. She sent me the appendix F of the standards and told me to focus on this list of eight practices:

1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
2. Developing and using models
3. Planning and carrying out investigations
4. Analyzing and interpreting data
5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
7. Engaging in argument from evidence
8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

The more practices an activity meets, the most you are complying with the standards. From there, she told me, you will be able to go further until you completely master NGSS.

I have started to review the delivered activities with that approach, and it turns out I have been quite compliant with the standards without being aware of it (that experience, not so bad it seems). The best part: now I know how to keep improving until all my activities meet most of the practices.

Too often, the issues seem more complicated than they are. We tend to look at the whole thing, which looks unfathomable, instead of focusing on smaller actionable parts that get us moving. I am usually pretty good at adopting a practical approach, and often I help other people overcome this issue, but it happened to me this time. Fortunately, there it was Tiffany to show me the way.

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