Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Future of science education tackled at Grossmont College educators' workshop

The future of science education in public and private schools will be the focus when more than 500 San Diego County teachers convene Feb. 28 at Grossmont College for workshops and seminars covering the Next Generation Science Standards, a set of expectations in science and engineering instruction similar to the Common Core.

The San Diego Science Educators Association 24th Conference is 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event includes keynote speaker Richard Somerville, a world renowned climate scientist and distinguished professor emeritus at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego, and numerous exhibitors, including the Birch Aquarium, the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair, the National Weather Service, San Diego Coastkeeper, Sally Ride Science Inc. and the UCLA Biomedical Library.

“Anyone who is interested in science education in the region will gain a lot from this day of workshops and seminars,” said Michael Reese, Grossmont College’s dean of the Division of Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Exercise Science and Wellness.

Workshops will explore the best practices in technology, engineering and robotics instruction to better engage students; teaching about watersheds; and how students and teachers can best use iPads and tablets, among others. Several workshops will focus on the Next Generation Science Standards, which represent some of the most substantive changes in science education in decades.

“Our aim is to reach out to science educators, whether they work in the classroom or at a museum, and make them aware of the science standards that are coming and how they may play out,” said Chuck Abel, president of the San Diego Science Educators Association. “This is an exciting time for science teachers.”

The state Board of Education adopted the standards in September 2013 that focus on the interconnected nature of science in the world. For example, performance standards for first graders will help students formulate answers to questions about concepts such as the growth and development of plants and animals, heavenly bodies and gravity, and much more.

In the physical sciences, performance expectations at the middle school level focus on understanding scientific practices, such as modeling, scientific investigation, analyzing data, using mathematical and computational thinking, and constructing explanations; and how to use these practices to demonstrate understanding. Students are also expected to demonstrate understanding of several of engineering practices including design and evaluation.

Abel said that rather than focus on a particular curriculum, “Next Generation Science Standards deal with a change in teaching style and in learning style. We will be asking students to be better critical thinkers and to better understand basic science concepts.”

A full schedule of events can be found at