Iowa Department of Education spokesperson Staci Hupp says they have teamed up with Grand View University to work with teachers on the new science standards adopted last fall.
“We call this an immersion institute — and what that means is we want educators to really have an opportunity to experience what it would be like to be a student in the classroom using the new science standards,” Hupp says.
They’ve brought in national and state science education leaders to work with the teachers on ways to teach using the new standards. She cites an example of one of the lessons.
“They’ll have the teachers looking at field corn that has been siting out versus corn that has been sitting in water soaking for a week and then the scientific phenomenon associated with that. So, this really gets to idea of helping students experience and explains science, ” Hupp says. “So in that field corn example — this is saying as a student I am going to observe this as a scientist would — ask questions, and then use my knowledge and skills to explain why the field corn won’t sprout after it has been sitting in water for a week.”
This is the second year of the four-year implementation of the new science standards, which take a new approach to teaching science. “Our previous science standards were based on learning from the late 1990s, and so much about science and our understanding about how students learn about science has changed over that time,” according to Hupp. “The new standards identify those science and engineering practices and content that students should master in order to be prepared for success in college and the workforce.”
The institute is designed to give teachers ideas to use in their classroom. “What we want people to walk away with is to look at our science standards and say ‘what are some local contexts that I can use to spark interest in my students so that they want learn about it,’ and then use critical thinking skills to explain it and potentially solve the scientific problem,” Hupp says. She says the Department of Education is trying to help districts as they decide how best to implement the new standards.
“The standards articulate expectations for what students should know and be able to do at particular grade levels, but its really up to the local schools to make those curriculum decisions. Including decisions about what is taught and how it is taught,” Hupp says.
The institute takes place over three days, with elementary teachers taking part today, middle school teachers tomorrow and high school teachers Friday. It is being held at West Des Moines Valley High School.