SCV teachers study California’s newest science standards

Lisa Craigie, left, Melisa Ray, center, and Kristin McCrady, right, work on a poster during a Next Generation Science Standards training for K-6 teachers at College of the Canyons on Tuesday, June 20, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Teachers from the Santa Clarita Valley’s four elementary school districts are spending their summer vacations studying the state’s Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) during a three-day outreach training session at College of the Canyons.

“My biggest hope is from coming to these trainings is that we can remove some of the fear of doing science with the kids,” said Teresa Ciardi, chair of COC’s Earth Space and Environmental Sciences department who led the training session.

The NGSS standards were adopted by the State Board of Education in September 2013.  Since their adoption, school districts throughout the state have slowly begun implementing the standards before they fully take effect in the 2018-19 schoolyear.

With the NGSS, students are taught science and engineering concepts through three dimensions of science learning and grade-level aligned standards.  Overall, the dimensions work together to create an in-depth understanding of concepts while encouraging communication, collaboration and problem solving.

This week’s thee-day training session at COC aims to assist the elementary school teachers, from kindergarten to sixth grade, develop curriculum, assignments and classroom instruction that implement the NGSS.

“I think that’s a positive and important technique, to collaborate between the different grade levels,” said Amy Foote, director of COC’s Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) program and leader of the “explain” portion of Tuesday’s training session.  “The amount of collaboration in a group of 40 is definitely something, it’s invaluable.”

This is the third time COC has hosted trainings for local teachers through its Educational Outreach Alliance partnership with SCV school districts.  Previous trainings included one in summer 2016 and one in March 2017.

Canyon Springs Community School fifth and sixth grade teacher Lynette Vermeulen said she used all of the projects and ideas from previous training sessions in her own classroom when her school implemented the NGSS standards.

“The kids really came alive and all of the activities were engaging and I felt like every student was able to participate to their best level of ability,” she said.  “They loved it and they were always excited to come to science class.”

Melisa Ray, a teacher at Tesoro del Valle presents what she and fellow teachers, Lisa Craigie, left, also of Tesoro, and Kristin McCardy, right, of Helmers Elementary, created during a training session for teachers kindergarten through sixth grade at College of the Canyons on Tuesday, June 20, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

At Tuesday’s session, Foote discussed different biomes, adaptations and inheritance with the teachers that was directly related to their activity about animals and environments.

Ciardi then led the teachers in activity that demonstrated the actions of predators and prey using colored beads and multicolored fabric.

“The idea was, ‘Which bead gets picked off of that background more?’” Ciardi said.  “The idea was to show that if you stand out you’re going to get eaten and if you blend in then you have a better chance of surviving.”

Teachers also learned how to show how different types of predators impact a prey’s survival rate by picking up beads with chopsticks or spoons.

At the end of the first training day, the teachers broke off into groups to create their own posters that combined the lessons of the day and acted as an example of an evaluation method for students.

Tesoro Del Valle fifth grade teacher Melisa Ray and fourth grade teacher Lisa Craigie said they hope to learn more about how the standards are implemented so they can bring more interactive projects to their own classrooms.

“I’ve learned how good hands-on science is,” Ray said.  “It deepens their [students’] understanding of the subject.”

Through the faculty-moderated instructional design activities, Ciardi hopes teachers discover ways to bring creative learning experiences to their students.

“We want to give them enough information and enough tools that they can feel confident going back into the classroom and doing some science with their kids,” Ciardi said.  “I love making science come alive and that’s why I do this, that’s why I always volunteering for anything outreach.”

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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