If you’re also starting to implement NGSS, then you know that one of the hardest parts is figuring out where to begin. I decided to take a three-dimensional approach by focusing on what content I wanted to cover, which lens I wanted to use to explore that content, and how I wanted to engage students. This framework is what NGSS calls for, but putting it in my terms really helped me get started.
- Content. First off, content is key! I decided to take on a big one — energy. Energy is often confusing to grasp as an adult learner, and therefore difficult to teach. After taking the Making Sense of SCIENCE (MSS): Energy course, I had a better grasp of what energy was. And as I started to consider how it fit in with my existing lessons, I suddenly saw connections everywhere.
- Lens. Each of the NGSS crosscutting concepts can be thought of as a lens for thinking about the content being studied. When it comes to understanding energy, using a systems lens is particularly helpful, especially when trying to understand how energy flows through a system and is always conserved. I used the MSS model of systems as having boundaries, components, inputs and outputs, interactions, and emergent properties as a model for defining and thinking about systems.
- Engagement. Taking what I learned from MSS courses, I had already changed how I structure student inquiry, by starting with small group or paired discussions and building to whole group discussions. Because of this, I decided to choose two practices to focus on — asking questions, which is well suited for small group exploratory discussion, and constructing explanations, for our whole group consensus discussions.