Question: What’s Next? Answer: The Next Generation Science Standards!

How do we spark creativity, curiosity, and wonder in children?

Sugata Mitra, this year’s recipient of the TED Prize, calls that the central pedagogical question philosophers of education have been debating since Plato. When was the last time that “central” question was raised at your school? Isn’t the question you are more likely to be asked “How will you raise your students’ test scores?”

The Next Generation Science Standards, scheduled for release in final form in a few weeks, stands a good chance of edging us away from  the over-testing of our nation’s children and toward a consideration of pedagogical approaches that are more likely to spark children’s creativity, curiosity, and wonder than much of what we are currently doing in schools.

Consider the working definition of inquiry-based instruction that Golden Apple’s Inquiry Science Institute team follows in designing the professional development we offer teachers. It is our central pedagogical question, if you will, in a program that sees developing good questions as one of the essential skills of teaching. In shaping an inquiry lesson …

How can we facilitate the construction of knowledge by activating and pursuing the inquisitive nature of each learner?

The inquisitive nature of the student is at the heart of a successful inquiry lesson. The teacher’s role is to spark that curiosity and so totally engage it that students eagerly dive into doing science with a sense of purpose, wonder, and creativity.

This is what that looks like (note the body language):

photo-2 photo-5 photo-3

Children in high poverty schools … in over-crowded classrooms, using the simplest of low-tech materials … can be absolutely engaged in conducting inquiry investigations with an eagerness, a sense of purpose, and the clear ability to solve problems to rival that of any research scientist. All children can do real and rigorous science (and mathematics and engineering), if their teachers know how to foster these dispositions rather dampen them by teaching to the test as so many feel compelled to do right now.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) will require a different pedagogical approach than what is currently the norm. It will be heavily inquiry-based, and it will challenge students to observe, to question, to hypothesize, to design novel solutions, and to solve complex problems.

In a webinar held soon after the release of the National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education but before the NGSS were developed, Stephen Pruitt, Vice President for Content, Research and Development for Achieve and the individual who has led the development of the Next Generation Science Standards, said, “We have to realize that things are going to have to be different. We have to recognize that the way we have historically done things is going to need to change, which is going to make some people a little uncomfortable.”

We believe that one of those changes will be the absolute requirement that all of us in education finally return to that most essential question: How do we spark creativity, curiosity and wonder in children? For, indeed, we must.

~ Penny

You can learn more about Golden Apple’s Inquiry Science Institute here: http://www.goldenapple.org/inquiry-science-institute

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Filed under children as scientists, constructivist learning, inquiry science, NGSS, Uncategorized

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