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Monday, April 6, 2015

New Roads to Learning-for This Generation

 The overarching goal of our framework for K-12 science education is to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science; possess sufficient knowledge of science and engineering to engage in public discussions on related issues; are careful consumers of scientific and technological information related to their everyday lives; are able to continue to learn about science outside school; and have the skills to enter careers of their choice, including (but not limited to) careers in science, engineering, and technology.”
                     Next Generation Science Standards

Wow!  Doesn't that sound nice?  In fact, I am pretty sure that that is exactly what I tried to do my whole career!  Nothing new here.  Or is there?  I was so lucky to have spent my career in a place where I was either supported or encouraged to be creative and make all lessons “hands on” or at least be left alone to my own devices!

Beyond Sharing Stories-Take Them with You
I have had some amazing opportunities over the years from joining a group in the early 80’s that used something called the Electronic Information Exchange System (EIES- pre-www, now called the “internet”) to connecting teachers and students together to share data on local rivers to traveling with a team to the Rain Forest in Hawaii on a Dodge Grant to visiting classrooms in Zambia to recently being invited to watch a missile launch at NASA.  The best thing about these opportunities is that kids could come with me.  The richness of our lives always carries over into the classroom.  However, the changes in technology have allowed us to go beyond “sharing stories” – now, with simple tools like Google Hangout, you can have the kids experience it with you in real time- if not literally, than digitally.
Sometimes there are Bumps in the Road- 
On my most recent journey, I attended the Launch of the MMS mission and offered to connect with classrooms through Google Hangout, while we were there. How cool is it that you can carry the class around with you, allowing them to interact with professionals, other students, and actually see all the artifacts in the museum, etc?  Madelaine Travaille, from High Point Regional HS in NJ, is one of those educators that opens her classroom doors and windows wide when opportunities knock!  Despite some glitches in our first attempts at connecting, she was willing to try to make it work the following day to offer her students a unique experience.  Great learning opportunities are not always as safe as having your notes on the board or a pre-made PowerPoint, but staying in that safety zone of scripted learning does not prepare your students for the imperfection of the real world.  (Nor does it teach them persistence and problem solving!)  Check out our imperfect Google hangout video here.
Jennifer Miller, Extraordinary Educator from TX, connects kids regularly with STEAM professionals, here she  interviews Dr. Patricia Reiff, true Rocket Scientist, from Rice University

Students at High Point Regional High School listen to Troy Cline, MMS Outreach Specialist

Open the Door to Next Generation Learning
My point is…that it is now easier than ever before to reach the overarching goals of the NGSS. Technology has flattened the walls of our classrooms so that our students can witness the beauty and sometimes devastation of the world, speak directly to experts in the field, connect their learning to the real world, and have the skills and knowledge to enter the profession of their choice.  The barriers are coming down, you just have to be willing to open the door when opportunity knocks.