- Observe how animals build bridges and use those observations to design a solution to avoiding puddles at school.
- Develop models to explain how plants communicate via chemical cues.
- Mathematically describe the structure of radio waves that could allow cars to communicate to prevent crashes.
These are just a few components from the model K-12 student tasks being developed by a group of 18 experienced science, math and engineering teachers and administrators.
In early September, Achieve gathered this group to begin developing model tasks for K-12 classrooms. The innovation: these tasks integrate the Next Generations Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSS-M).
“It is an exciting time in science education,” said Ben Twietmeyer, a chemistry teacher from Illinois. “We are moving from primarily only teaching science content to developing students’ knowledge and science skills. Focusing on evidence based explanations and application, the math science performance task pulls together the big ideas of the NGSS and Common Core Math Standards.”
In integrating the NGSS and CCSS-M, the model tasks intend to do more than simply include science, mathematics and engineering as separate components within the same task. The model tasks will showcase a spectrum of opportunities to integrate these disciplines to support a shift in instruction.
“Working with a science teacher broadened my understanding of writing and teaching integrated tasks,” said Jennifer Abler, a high school math teacher from Michigan. “We spent a great deal of time discussing what integrated really means. It's not teaching math and science parallel to one another but using the skills of each content area to strengthen the understanding of the content of both subjects.”
In addition to providing examples of creative integration of the NGSS and CCSS-M, a key purpose of the model task project is to demonstrate how others can develop integrated science and math tasks.
To support this effort, when the model tasks are published, they will be accompanied by project planning materials that show the criteria and process the writing teams used to develop the tasks.
The writers emphasized that the model tasks are only a first step, and creating effective tools for science, mathematics and engineering teachers should be a collaborative, ongoing process.
“This opportunity allowed me to recognize that great tasks, or lessons, don’t just happen,” said Abler. “They take time to develop, time to revise, and time to evolve as we consider using them with our students.”
Achieve will continue to work with the states that adopt the NGSS through the coming years to refine these tasks and to develop other tools to support the implementation of the NGSS. The initial model tasks and support materials will be released online in winter 2013/2014.