MSTA Conference Highlights A Framework for Science Education

The 2011 annual Maine Science Teachers Association Conference, held October 7, 2011, focused the attention of Maine science educators on A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Attendance for the day was impressive: just shy of three hundred educators turned out at Gardiner High School to participate in the workshops and sessions.  The conference highlighted literacy and engineering, both key components of the Framework. MSTA will coordinate and host regional events around the state to continue the conversation that was started at the conference.

This year’s conference schedule began with a kick-off session for all participants in the auditorium at Gardiner High School. I had the pleasure of delivering this session with Tom Keller.  For the last several years Tom has been on the front lines in D.C. at the National Academies working on the development of A Framework for K-12 Science Education. This document will advance our vision for science education and serve as the blueprint for the development of the Next Generation Science Standards.  During the presentation Tom identified the documents that served as the foundation for the vision outlined in the Framework.  Many of these foundational documents are resources that are familiar to science educators in Maine, they include among others, Taking Science to School and Ready, Set, Science!

Tom also described the three dimensions of the Framework,

  • Scientific and Engineering Practices
  • Crosscutting Concepts, and the
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas.

He prompted the audience to think about these dimensions in relationship to their current practice asking questions like “Which one or two of the scientific and engineering practices will be a challenge to incorporate into your teaching?” and “How might you incorporate the crosscutting concepts into your teaching?”  Tom emphasized that the Framework is NOT the Next Generation Science Standards, but rather, will be used as a blueprint by Achieve and the Lead States in the development of the standards. (SAVE THE DATE: I will be presenting a webinar with Tom Keller on A Framework for K-12 Science Education, tentatively set for October 20, 2011. More information will be forthcoming.)

This year’s conference keynote featured engineering research currently being conducted in Maine by Dr. Habib Dagher.  As is customary, Dr. Dagher, the Engineering Professor at the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center, fully engaged his audience with information about offshore wind research and the importance of k-12 engineering education for all students.  His research will answer questions that could guide Maine in the development of safe and effective technologies for harnessing the rich wind resources found 20 miles off the Maine coast. Following his keynote, 30 educators continued the conversation with Dr. Dagher about wind as an alternative energy source and engineering competitions supported by the University to engage students in engineering practices.  Dr. Dagher’s PowerPoint will be posted on the Maine Science Teachers Association website later this week.

Due to record turnouts, many sessions at the conference were full, and this was certainly the case for the standing room only audience of seventy individuals who attended the session on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts specific to Reading and Writing in science. Patsy Dunton, the English Language Arts Specialist for the Maine Department of Education, provided an overview of the CCSS for Reading and Writing Standards in science.  She pointed out the progression of ideas across the grade levels and highlighted key student skills. Patsy was clear, “This is not an effort to turn teachers of science into teachers of English Language Arts”.  Rather the CCSS for Reading and Writing in science require that English Language Arts teachers turn more instructional time to informational texts and data-driven writing.  The document makes clear links with science. This DOES mean that ALL teachers of science should understand and use literacy strategies to enhance the development of science concepts and practices.  The CCSS and the Framework pave the way for increased integration between ELA and science educators and point us direct to the Dimension One of the Framework.

Maine has spent that last two decades engaged in conversations about many facets of science education.  These conversations have included formative and summative methods for measuring student thinking, student misconceptions, core ideas in science, best practices, and literacy strategies that enhance science learning. It is precisely because of these conversations and efforts that we have the base of knowledge that will enable us to make sense of and utilize the thinking outlined in A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Over the next year we have a golden opportunity to understand the Framework, identify how this vision will build on what we already do well,  and help us understand the changes that will lead to even more effective instruction and increased student engagement. One participant at the conference I overheard captured the essence of the Framework conversation perfectly, “This is the science we have always wanted to teach.”

To download a copy of the Framework for K-12 Science Education go to:


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  1. Pingback: Science conference focuses on standards blueprint | Maine DOE Newsroom

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