Science starts next generation

New standards put emphasis on discovery rather than facts


Araceli Valencia

Senior Alexis Desio and her partner work on a sensory lab in Anatomy and Physiology. They had to come up with their own procedure because it is a part of new science standards that will change most classes.

“Here’s the lab.”

“Where are the procedures?”

“Figure them out.”

In the coming months, science classes across the nation will soon experience a shift like this, where educators place more responsibility onto the students due to a new set of standards recently created.

On Oct. 22-23, science teachers William Lorentz and Marcus Sherman attended the National Science Teachers Association’s annual convention in Reno, Nevada. The highlight of this event: implementing the new Next Generation Science Standards.

NGSS is a new set of benchmarks developed by all 50 states to better prepare students for the competitive world of science. The standards took inspiration from an older set of standards as well as from those set by other nations with students that are leading in the sciences. In many ways, the new standards coincide with Common Core in how they emphasize apply learned skills.

At the NSTA convention, the two teachers were exposed to a multitude of new techniques and recommendations for teaching, especially for Advanced Placement classes. “One of the main points was emphasizing the use of inquiry-based labs,” Sherman said. He explains how many labs now come with a set of procedures students merely follow like rules. The new standards stress having students assess the situation and figure out what to do based on their analysis.

What does that mean for students? According to Lorentz, it’s going to be a challenge for most. “Majority of students need to be rewired to demonstrate their learning. That’s what NGSS, like Common Core, are trying to do.” Lorentz explains how science education, up until high school, was mostly fact-based. Once most students entered AP science classes, “they struggled with it.”

The most significant change to science classes will be seen in labs. Many of the labs currently used will be adjusted to incorporate NGSS and new labs will start being used in the coming semester.

In Sherman’s anatomy classes, junior Aaron Vang explains how they conducted a nerve lab that “was unlike anything I’ve done before. Even though we learned how to use the tools, we had to figure out how to record our own data.” Students were given the opportunity to assess their data and neatly record it as well as evaluate their own errors and create a conclusion.

Although NGSS poses some struggles for students, it advocates hope that students will be more prepared to compete with people from other countries who have already been using standards like these. Lorentz also explains how the added difficulty will better prepare students when taking the AP tests for the science subjects.