Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Call for early childhood educators to guide the direction of the Next Generation Science Standards

Peggy Ashbrook
Preschool science teacher
The Early Years columnist, Science & Children

We all have an opportunity to help shape the Next Generation Science Standards for K-12  by commenting on the first draft. The NGSS divides elementary school into K-2 and 3-5, making it easy to focus on early childhood. The last date to comment on this draft is June 2, just days away.  
You, as an early childhood educator, are in a very powerful position. Imagine who will be providing the majority of responses on the document ... they will come from higher education and high school teachers. Each of you have a voice that will be more significant because there will be fewer of us providing input. Speak up! Help the organization Achieve provide a document that is useful and supportive of our teaching practices.
1. Direct your energies in providing feedback to the areas of the standards most relevant to your work and your experience. The early childhood section is on pages 2-10 (pdf page 11).

2. Also, if you think this document represents a vision you share for science education, include that in your comments. Be sure to say what you like about NGSS! Consider that individuals and groups of all sorts will be providing feedback on this work, and that your comments matter.

I found it easier to have the “How to Read the Next Generation Science Standards” page open while I read through the standards. It also helped me to remember that the standards, called performance expectations, are made of three dimensions: Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts. These three dimensions are listed in the “Foundation Boxes” below each performance expectation. In my first read I did not read through them but it really helped me when I read them on my second time through the K-2 NGSS.

Click here to go to the Next Generation Science Standards website to see the May 2012 draft. Resources are also available on the NSTA Learning Center website (free registration for all).
Some helpful links:
·         The NGSS Matrix of Standards by Discipline and Grade Level (also available as a separate single-page document at the Learning Center).
·         The “How to Read the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)” document explains the layout.

I love the interconnectedness of the three dimensions, Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts, and the listing of the Common Core State Standards Connections.

One aspect of the NGSS that I am struggling with is the paring down of the Performance Expectations--only 3 subjects each in K, 1,  and 2. Will this lead to PreK-grade 2 teachers discarding useful branches of exploration such as examining bones or rolling objects on ramps? It may be that these 9 performance expectations are what children are expected to know by the end of 2nd grade, so they can be taught anytime in K-grade 2.

I am in favor of learning in depth about a few topics, using inquiry and practices, but I fear that teachers will discourage active inquiry about topics that are not in the NGSS at their grade level. Lilian Katz refers to "uncovering" children's understanding rather than covering all the topics, and I agree. But I don't want to discourage teachers from allowing their kindergarteners to pursue other concepts and topics, such as, rolling objects down ramps or observing the life cycle of a local insect.
Substructures, or parts of a whole, are not addressed until grade 3 but younger children use magnifiers and notice parts of a whole: veins in leaves, legs on insects, pupils in eyes, and bones of vertebrates (and a favorite topic in early childhood, bones in the fossil record).

Take a look, join the discussion on the NSTA Learning Center’s forums and when you are ready, give your feedback using the survey which will go to the state and other teams that will work on the next draft.
Early childhood prepares children for later science learning—what do you see addressed or left out of the Next Generation Science Standards?


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Raising Silkworms 
by Marie Faust Evitt
Mountain View Parent Nursery School
Mountain View, California.

Silkworms provide an easy way for children to see a complete life cycle in about 10 weeks. The preschool where I teach raises silkworms every spring. 

We hatch silkworms from eggs our silk moths had laid the previous year. It takes about two to three weeks for the eggs to hatch after we take them out of the refrigerator where we had stored them.

The silkworms look like tiny black threads when they hatch. The silkworms grow fast on a diet of mulberry leaves. Fortunately we have a mulberry tree in our school yard.

After a couple weeks, the silkworms are big and hardy enough for the children to handle gently.

About a month after hatching the silkworms are ready to spin cocoons.

After three weeks in their cocoons, the silk moth emerge. They can't fly and they don't eat or drink. They live for about three to five days during which time they mate.

They mate for about a day.
The female then lays eggs and the male looks for another mate. We let the eggs sit for a few days then put them in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator and save them until the following spring.

Check this site for details about raising silkworms and links for buying eggs and artificial food.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Effective Teaching and Science Inquiry
by Ingrid Chalufour
Education Development Center, Inc.

How much science do early childhood teachers need to know? 

How can teachers build their science knowledge?

These pictures show teachers building their understanding of how to use forces, such as air and water pressure, to move water. At Education Development Center (EDC) Inc., we believe some science knowledge is essential for effective teaching. It is the only way teachers can set learning goals and create experiences that lead to science learning. We have been modeling the inquiry-based approach we want teachers to use with children as we teach science. Teachers are building their understanding from experiences, which is how most of us learn, while they learn the power of scientific inquiry.

Please share your ideas and experiences with us.