Today I want to take time to introduce you to a free resource that just might help you better implement the Next Generation Science Standards.
Our neighbors to the north, Ontario to be precise, developed their own framework for science right around the time we were developing the NGSS. As their website points out, “Smarter Science is a framework for teaching and learning science in grades 1-12 and for developing the skills of inquiry, creativity, and innovation in a meaningful and engaging manner. Students engaged in Smarter Science-based activities are actively investigating and problem solving, enabled by a teacher who helps them address challenges relevant to their world. As they learn to think and act like scientists, students become increasingly independent and self-confident learners.” The developers of Smarter Science wanted to make science come alive for Ontario students. They wanted to provide the means to allow teachers to actively engage students, to develop their problem-solving skills, to get them thinking, and to dovetail science with literacy and numeracy.
Smarter Science was the brainchild of the Thames Valley District School Board and was piloted in 50 Ontario schools between 2006 and 2010. As educators saw the positive results emanating from the implementation of Smarter Science, more and more schools in Canada adopted the framework. Delightfully, Smarter Science is open source, which means that the folks who created it are sharing it freely with educators across Canada and the world. It can be freely reproduced and distributed. And that’s exactly what I intend to do and encourage you to do as well.
The Smarter Science framework beautifully complements our own Next Generation Science Standards and spells out what to do (and what not to do!) in the science classroom. It provides a very strong visual for implementing a more inquiry-based science program and aligns nicely with the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching. Do what it suggests, and you’ll be in the proficient and distinguished range of practice in no time. More pedagogically based than the NGSS, Smarter Science provides explicit classroom practice pointers, but unlike the NGSS doesn’t address Cross-Cutting Concepts or Disciplinary Core Ideas. You have our own NGSS for that. But Smarter Science is a good entry point and is easier to use than the NGSS.
A couple of pictures to give you a taste, and then please download your own copy, and set aside some time during the holiday break in December to peruse it. I guarantee you’ll come away with a better sense of how to do science with your students.
The Smarter Science site has downloadable templates to help you achieve a more inquiry-based classroom. And check out the Inquiry Cards here. Poke around the website, and I’m sure you’ll discover useful tools and ideas to get your students thinking like scientists.
By the way, if you’ve been involved in Golden Apple’s professional development, this framework will remind you of STEM Institute and the way our faculty conducts activities. You can learn more about STEM Institute here.