Tuesday, June 23, 2015

HF Schoolyard Ecology-NGSS Links

How do Harvard Forest Schoolyard Eco Projects Align with Next Generation Science Standards? 

Okay, if you are like me, you are SO SICK of seeing commentary on NGSS everywhere and find it a bit of OVERKILL. That said, I'm hoping that this might be of help to some teachers who are in districts and states where they must show the links to NGSS to administrators.

In short, the best way that Harvard Forest Schoolyard Ecology assists teachers in meeting the NGSS standards is by providing a way for your students to engage in authentic science practices.

Science and Engineering Practices in the NGSS

The following practices fit most closely with the way our Schoolyard Ecology projects are executed:

Practice 1 Asking Questions and Defining Problems
 Students at any grade level should be able to ask questions of each other about the texts they read, the features of the phenomena they observe, and the conclusions they draw from their models or scientific investigations. (NRC Framework 2012, p. 56) 

Note: Schoolyard projects are based on study questions that have been developed by scientists at Harvard Forest.  We encourage teachers to engage students in developing questions about the protocols themselves, related text, what they observe, and the conclusions they can draw.

To find specific grade level connections, see the complete document showing HF Eco alignment with NGSS on our website at: HF Schoolyard-NGSS links

Practice 3 Planning and Carrying Out Investigations 
Students should have opportunities to plan and carry out several different kinds of investigations during their K-12 years. At all levels, they should engage in investigations that range from those structured by the teacher—in order to expose an issue or question that they would be unlikely to explore on their own (e.g., measuring specific properties of materials)— to those that emerge from students’ own questions. (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 61)

Note:  This is the big one that fits most perfectly with every student/teacher that participates in our projects.  Every student has the opportunity to carry out a field investigation that has been structured by a team consisting of a professional ecologist, data manager,  HF educator, and classroom teachers. We always encourage teachers to allow students to plan and carry out investigations that emerge from their own questions.  Some of our teachers already incorporate this more inquiry based approach along with the structured projects.

To find specific grade level connections, see: HF Schoolyard-NGSS links

Practice 4 Analyzing and Interpreting Data

 Once collected, data must be presented in a form that can reveal any patterns and relationships and that allows results to be communicated to others. Because raw data as such have little meaning, a major practice of scientists is to organize and interpret data through tabulating, graphing, or statistical analysis. Such analysis can bring out the meaning of data—and their relevance—so that they may be used as evidence. (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 61-62)

Note: This is another excellent fit with HF projects.  We put a lot of attention on data management and analysis.  Schoolyard Eco projects allow students to practice organizing and presenting authentic data that they have collected in the field.  An online database coordinated by a professional data manager at Harvard Forest allows teachers and/or students to input data online, where it is shared with a large network of schools and the general public.  An online graphing tool allows students to easily create graphs of their own data and/or related data from other sites.  Teachers are invited to data workshops at Harvard Forest led by our data manager and project ecologists. At these workshops, teachers learn more about how to choose the best graph for the story they would like to tell about their data, and methods they can use to create those graphs either using the online graphing tools, Excel, or hand graphing. Teachers are then able to guide students through that process in their classrooms.

To find specific grade level connections, see: HF Schoolyard-NGSS links

Practice 5 Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

Although there are differences in how mathematics and computational thinking are applied in science…, mathematics often brings these two fields together by enabling engineers to apply the mathematical form of scientific theories and by enabling scientists to use powerful information technologies designed by engineers. Both kinds of professionals can thereby accomplish investigations and analyses and build complex models, which might otherwise be out of the question. (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 65)

Note:  Graphing and data analysis as described above in practice 4 notes involves mathematical thinking and are therefore included in mathematics frameworks/standards as well as science standards.  Teachers always have the option to do more with statistics, math, and computer skills to deepen this experience.

To find specific grade level connections, see: HF Schoolyard-NGSS links

Practice 6 Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

 The goal of science is to construct explanations for the causes of phenomena. Students are expected to construct their own explanations, as well as apply standard explanations they learn about from their teachers or reading. The Framework states the following about explanation: “The goal of science is the construction of theories that provide explanatory accounts of the world. A theory becomes accepted when it has multiple lines of empirical evidence and greater explanatory power of phenomena than previous theories.”(NRC Framework, 2012, p. 52)

Note:  This is a step we encourage teachers to take, using Schoolyard studies as a basis for constructing explanations for what is happening in a given field study and related scientific phenomena such as global climate change, decline in tree populations, effects of invasive species, carbon cycling, photosynthesis,  seasonal water levels, etc.

To find specific grade level connections, see: HF Schoolyard-NGSS links

Practice 8 Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
Any education in science and engineering needs to develop students’ ability to read and produce domain-specific text. As such, every science or engineering lesson is in part a language lesson, particularly reading and producing the genres of texts that are intrinsic to science and engineering. (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 76)

Note:  We strongly encourage teachers to engage students in reading and communicating about project themes and outcomes.  Many of the lesson plans teachers have submitted that are available on our website, include these components in the form of recommended reading and related questions; Powerpoint presentations, videos, and scientific posters created by students, etc.

To find specific grade level connections, see: HF Schoolyard-NGSS links

NGSS Disciplinary Core Idea Progression Core Concepts: 
There are many links that can be made between Schoolyard Ecology projects and NGSS core concepts.  These concepts must be taught by teachers as supplemental lessons that relate to the project themes.  Most teachers who participate in Schoolyard Ecology already teach lessons that tie to our project themes in order to deepen student understanding of their field studies.  I have pulled out the NGSS core concepts that I feel best relate to our projects in the complete NGSS-HF Schoolyard document available on our website at:   HF Schoolyard-NGSS links

NGSS Crosscutting Concepts

All of the following concepts apply to Schoolyard Eco project themes. How these concepts are integrated and at what levels, is dependent on how the teacher chooses to integrate these concepts in lesson plans and activities related to project themes.

1. Patterns. Observed patterns of forms and events guide organization and classification, and they prompt questions about relationships and the factors that influence them. 
2. Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation. Events have causes, sometimes simple, sometimes multifaceted. A major activity of science is investigating and explaining causal relationships and the mechanisms by which they are mediated. Such mechanisms can then be tested across given contexts and used to predict and explain events in new contexts. 
3. Scale, proportion, and quantity. In considering phenomena, it is critical to recognize what is relevant at different measures of size, time, and energy and to recognize how changes in scale, proportion, or quantity affect a system’s structure or performance.
 4. Systems and system models. Defining the system under study—specifying its boundaries and making explicit a model of that system—provides tools for understanding and testing ideas that are applicable throughout science and engineering. 
5. Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation. Tracking fluxes of energy and matter into, out of, and within systems helps one understand the systems’ possibilities and limitations. 
6. Structure and function. The way in which an object or living thing is shaped and its substructure determine many of its properties and functions. 
7. Stability and change. For natural and built systems alike, conditions of stability and determinants of rates of change or evolution of a system are critical elements of study. 

Teachers- Please provide us with feedback as to how you see the best fits between NGSS and HF Schoolyard. 

What have I missed?  What changes do you recommend to our documentation of NGSS alignment?
Do you have any examples of "models" that your students have created related to project themes?  

What else do you have to say on this topic?  

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