WARREN, NJ – There’s a lot of talk about STEM these days.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. In recent years, there’s also been talk of adding the arts to the equation, making it STEAM. But whether STEM or STEAM, it’s an area of education that has great impact on the daily work of students and teachers.
Educators and policymakers alike agree on the need for an increased focus on STEM
education. New Jersey is among 14 states, along with the District of Columbia, to have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), with plans to implement the new standards in grades 6-12 for the 2016-17 school year and for grades K-5 the following year.
In preparation for the new standards, the Warren Township School District continues to provide professional development opportunities in STEM and NGSS to its science educators.
In July, the district sent three teachers from Warren Middle School to a weeklong science institute at Raritan Valley Community College. Three additional teachers from the district attended the institute the summer before while others participated in the New Jersey Science Convention last October.
“The NGSS line up very neatly with the Common Core standards already adopted in math and language arts,” says Kelly Brown, who teaches 8th grade science and who attended the summer institute. “[The new science standards] focus on student-centered learning, which is the direction we have already taken. There are a few changes that we are in the process of making, like teaching the students to be more evidence-based in their investigations and communicating results based on their evidence.”
The foundation of the NGSS is “A Framework for K-12 Science Education,” an evidence-based curriculum that focuses on scientific practice (investigative models and theories used by scientists and engineers); crosscutting concepts (a way of linking the different scientific domains and other academic subject areas); and disciplinary core ideas (broad ideas that relate to student interests and are teachable/learnable across multiple grades).
"Our teachers are breaking down the key NGSS practices and crosscutting concepts and beginning to think about how best to apply the standards in the classroom,” says
curriculum supervisor Stacey Hann-Modugno. Hann-Modugno and curriculum coordinator William Kimmick are spearheading implementation of the new standards.
A series of additional training sessions are planned for the school year. Science teachers in grades 6-8 will attend workshops on such topics as planning/carrying out scientific investigations, engineering design and technology, developing and using models, and planning NGSS-aligned lessons. “We like how the NGSS involve the engineering practices and the cross cutting concepts of language arts and math, preparing our students for jobs that have not yet been created,” says Brown.
Photo: Warren Middle School science teachers are preparing for NGSS. (L-R) Simone Miller, Kelly Brown, Carolyn McCloskey, Daniel Ticchio, Ann Marie Christou, O’Brien Speckin. Not pictured: Michele Kraminitz, Sandy Foley, Patricia LaMorte. Cathlin Sweeney