Vital Signs prepares teachers for new standards

Just about a year ago GMRI’s Vital Signs Program Manager, Sarah Kirn, was my blogs’ very first guest posting.  I am lucky to be able to share this post from Christine Voyer, also with GMRI’s Vital Signs program.  Christine helps us to see how GMRI’s Vital Signs program is helping to prepare Maine teachers for the NGSS. Thank you, Christine…

At the Maine Science Teachers Association (MSTA) annual conference Rhonda Tate of Dedham School and I got to share Vital Signs with a group of interested teachers from around the state. One of the big topics at MSTA this year was the Framework for K-12 Science Education and the development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I was excited to show these teachers some of connections between Vital Signs and the science practices outlined in the Framework. Here’s some of what I shared.

Students collecting data along coast.

Vital Signs was developed both to provide a service to the science research community and to achieve science learning goals. Ready, Set, SCIENCE! (RSS) was a significant resource in VS development. RSS draws on

Ready, Set, Science!

research findings from National Research Council on best practices in science teaching. This work also underlies the development of the Framework for K-12 Science Education and the NGSS. While educators organize their students’ Vital Signs experiences in different ways and around different topics in the content area (this flexibility is one of the strengths of Vital Signs) their participation is strongly tied to the science practices in the Framework.

The first science practice in the Framework is, “Asking questions.” By using Field Missions as the research questions that guide their investigations, students are seeing that science starts with a question that we can answer with evidence. Investigations can focus on research questions that highlight content core ideas around biodiversity, ecosystems, evolution, and more.

Measuring insects.

Measuring insect length.

Planning and carrying out investigations is another of the science practices in the Framework. Students plan and carry out investigations with more or less scaffolding depending on the Field Mission selected or the development of their own school or class field mission. The selected Field Mission is a great way for teacher and student participation to evolve over time. Check out the Massabesic Field Mission for an example of this kind of evolution.

When students support their found or not found claim with photo and written evidence they are exercising the scientific practice of engaging in argument from evidence. They also have opportunities to support their arguments with evidence through the data analysis.

The Framework calls out analysis and interpretation of data. There are examples of analyses that students can do as part of their Vital Signs investigations on the Mission: Analysis page. These Analysis Missions invite the use of models, as well as mathematical and computational thinking which are also practices called out in the Framework. “I’m actually looking forward to the standards change – kids learning real science by doing real science and having a stake in what they learn. I feel lucky to have Vital Signs as a resource to count on. For once in my career, I feel ahead of the game” Pat Parent, Massabesic Middle School teachers like Pat who are already using VS are happy to discover that the learning in their classroom is aligned with the Framework for the Next Generation Science Standards and they’re excited to bring their colleagues on board.

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