My students are starting a project this week that I am incredibly excited about. It’s a physics project where they identify a real-world problem and design a solution to it. I’ve done if for the past for years, it is so unbelievably cool, and I cannot wait for them to get started.
Knowing this project is looming has me reflecting a lot. It’s sort of the last holdout of how I used to do things. My classroom is changed a lot in the past four years. The first major shift was NGSS implementation a few years back. Next came a full-on conversion to standards-based grading. After that, the natural fit of project-based learning came into play. I’ve had some amazing coaches and mentors helping me out during this giant transition, and I couldn’t be happier with where my classroom is now.
Yet I’m sitting here on the cusp of this really amazing project, and I’ll fully admit … I’m struggling. A lot.
This project is really awesome. Lots of hands-on applications. The ability for students to create something that has real applications. However, the way it sits right now, it is extremely content heavy. Lots of little details, concepts, and facts to know. I look at the materials I have for my students and sigh (heavily). This stuff is so cool, so interesting, and so fun! There are some really amazing things, but … it has to go.
As I look at each item that I delete or change, I keep returning to this statement made in A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas, the founding document for NGSS.
“Any education that focuses predominantly on the detailed products of scientific labor—the facts of science—without developing an understanding of how those facts were established or that ignores the many important applications of science in the world misrepresents science and marginalizes the importance of engineering.”
What that really means is that while some of those fact are important, it’s how students are able to use them that really matters. It isn’t about memorizing (or being familiar with) a hundred little details. It’s about a broad picture of science that focuses on application of knowledge through skill-based activities. In even more terms, it’s about what students can do.
So what am I going to do? I’m going to go back and weed through all this content-heavy stuff and let some of it go. I’m going to focus on building the skills and backing them with some really cool content. I’m going to be secure in the knowledge that while this is hard for me, it’s going to be better for those wonderful people in my room.
“Read “A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas” at NAP.edu.” National Academies Press: OpenBook. Web. 11 Mar. 2017.