The Next Generation Science Standards are coming to Kentucky's public schools in the 2014-15 school year.
Brian Womack, science consultant for the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative in Bowling Green, will travel to Pittsburgh this summer to meet with other curriculum developers to look at how the standards will be rolled out across America. Womack has been working on a committee commissioned by the Kentucky Department of Education on the standards, providing feedback during their development.
Work has been progressing since 2011, when the National Research Council published a white paper on the subject, "A Framework for K-12 Science Education."
"We want to make sure that science is taught at every grade level," Womack said. "This is intended to make sure that students are college and career ready." College and career readiness is a major thrust of the Kentucky Department of Education. Kentucky was one of 26 states that partnered in developing the Next Generation Science Standards, KDE spokeswoman Rebecca Blessing said in a release.
The new standards meet the benchmarks set in Senate Bill 1 adopted in 2009.
"They are internationally benchmarked, rigorous, research-based and aligned with expectations for college and careers," Blessing said.
A section of the standards provided by the Next Generation Science Standards website shows the progression expected from science teachers in public schools. The expectation is to give students in kindergarten through fifth grade a strong understanding of four basic science ideas that will be built upon in the ensuing grades: physical sciences, life sciences, earth and space sciences, and engineering, technology and applications of science.
The standards fall in line with the current emphasis on STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering and math.
"In the earlier grades, students begin by recognizing patterns and formulating answers to questions about the world around them. By the end of fifth grade, students are able to demonstrate grade-appropriate proficiency in gathering, describing and using information about the natural and designed world(s)," the Next Generation Science Standards web site noted.
"We want to get the kids to think like scientists," Womack said. "Science is how we explain things happening in the natural world. Engineering is the practice of solving problems in the natural world."
Under the new standards, Blessing noted, the disciplinary core ideas of science and engineering are integrated rather than taught separately.
"The Next Generation Science Standards reflect precisely the kind of integration of science and engineering content along with process skills to ensure children develop a strong and practical foundation for success as adults and professionals," Joanna Haas, executive director of the Kentucky Science Center, said in a release.